Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas at Cambridge

With Christmas largesse, I purchased the BBC Music Christmas 2011 issue at one of our local Barnes & Noble stores (which is closing on 12/31 this year because the store's lease is up and not being renewed), and we've enjoyed listening to the CD of music from Caius College. One selection that interested me in particular is the Sussex Carol, which dates from the seventeenth century at least--but may be older, since it's not clear if the Irish bishop and Franciscan, Luke Wadding who included it in his 1694 publication composed it or copied it. Both Ralph Vaughn Williams and Cecil Sharp heard it and Williams transcribed the tune and there are two main arrangements, by David Willcocks (on this CD) and Philip Ledger:

On Christmas night all Christians sing
To hear the news the angels bring.
News of great joy, news of great mirth,
News of our merciful King's birth.

Then why should men on earth be so sad,
Since our Redeemer made us glad,
When from our sin he set us free,
All for to gain our liberty?

When sin departs before His grace,
Then life and health come in its place.
Angels and men with joy may sing
All for to see the new-born King.

All out of darkness we have light,
Which made the angels sing this night:
"Glory to God and peace to men,
Now and for evermore, Amen!"

The magazine also includes stories about the Choirs at several of the other Colleges at the University of Oxford.

Inclusive Language? Bah! Humbug!

John Mason Neale's efforts were not very well rewarded in his day--he was thought to be too Romish and his High Church ritualism was suspected by the hierarchy of the Church of England, stung by Blessed John Henry Newman's defection to the Church of Rome. Therefore when he established an order of Anglican nuns to help serve the poor:

Neale was [once] attacked and mauled at a funeral of one of the Sisters. From time to time unruly crowds threatened to stone him or to burn his house. He received no honor or preferment in England, and his doctorate was bestowed by an American college (Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut).

Today, however, he is honored in the Church of England on its Kalendar of "Saints" on August 7th.

One way to honor him to day is to print his translations and lyrics as he wrote them! Inclusive language ruins some hymns, including his "Good Christian Men, Rejoice" which now appears in some hymnals as "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice"! [Anthony Esolen examines the results of other tinkering with beautiful hymns in this article from Crisis magazine.]

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
News! News!
Jesus Christ was born to-day:
Ox and ass before Him bow,
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today.

Good Christian men, rejoice,
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss:
Joy! Joy!
Jesus Christ was born for this!
He hath ope'd the heav'nly door,
And man is blessed evermore.
Christ was born for this!
Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one, and calls you all,
To gain His everlasting hall:
Christ was born to save!
Christ was born to save!

In the Octave of Christmas, of course, we celebrate each day as Christmas!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Second Howard Martyr

The Howard family boasts two martyrs: St. Philip Howard who died in the Tower of London during Queen Elizabeth I's reign (denied the opportunity to see his son before he died unless he denied his Catholicism and professed to be a Protestant!) and his grandson, Blessed William Howard, who was beheaded on December 29, 1680 on Tower Hill.

William Howard was born on November 30, 1614, the son of Thomas Howard, who had conformed to the Church of England. William married Mary Stafford in a Catholic ceremony in 1637 and they had nine children. The Howard family, being Royalists, fled to the Netherlands during the English Civil War and returned to England with the Restoration of Charles II, being restored to his lands.

He was accused by Titus Oates of being part of the non-existent Popish Plot and was tried by his peers in the House of Lords in Westminster Hall. One of his witnesses was arrested and died in jail. Howard was, of course, found guilty, attainted and his lands forfeit. According to Archbishop Challoner, Blessed William Howard's speech before his execution moved the crowds to acknowledge his innocence and cry out that they believed him:

First, he protested in the presence of the eternal God, and upon his salvation, that he was entirely innocent of the treason laid to his charge. Then giving thanks to the Divine Majesty for the long time He had given him to prepare for death, he declared, that having well considered what could be the original cause of his having been so unjustly accused and condemned to death, he was convinced that it was no other than his religion, of which he said he had no reason to be ashamed, for that it taught nothing but the right worship of God and due subordination to the King, and the temporal laws of the kingdom. That he most firmly believed all the articles that the Catholic Church believes and teaches, as most consonant to the Word of God; and that with the same Catholic Church from his heart he detested all king-killing doctrine, that his principles were entirely loyal. And as for indulgences, dispensations, or pardons, pretended by the adversaries of the Church to be given to murder, rebel, lie, forswear, or commit any other crime whatsoever, he professed in the presence of God, and that without any equivocation or mental reservation whatsoever, that he was never taught any such thing, nor believed, nor practised any such thing. That if he had been really guilty of any of those crimes of which he was accused, he should have been worse than a fool, and his own self-murderer into the bargain, if he had not acknowledged his guilt, since by so doing he might have saved his life; ‘But had I a thousand lives,’ said he, ‘I would lose them all rather than falsely accuse either myself or any other whatsoever.’
Then again declaring his abhorrence of all treason and murder, and that to his knowledge he had never spoke to, or seen Oates, or Turberville till his trial, or ever spoke with Dugdale about any treasonable matters (whom nevertheless he heartily forgave, and all others that had any hand in his death), he concluded his speech as follows:— ‘I shall end with my hearty prayers for the happiness of his Majesty, that he may enjoy all the happiness in this world, and in the world to come, and govern his people according to the laws of God; and that the people may be sensible what a blessing God hath so miraculously given them, and obey him as they ought. I ask pardon with a prostrate heart of Almighty God for all the great offences I have committed against the Divine Majesty; and hope, through the merits and passion of Christ Jesus, to obtain everlasting happiness; into whose hands I commit my spirit, asking pardon of any person that I have done any wrong to, &c.
‘I beseech God not to revenge my innocent blood upon the nation, or on those that were the cause of it, with my last breath; I do with my last breath truly assert my innocency, and hope the omnipotent, all-seeing, just God will deal with me accordingly.’

He was all prepared, with his head on the block and the executioner hesitated--he asked the executioner why he delayed and the man answered that he was waiting for a sign. The martyr replied that he would give no sign; the headsman should take his time; HE was ready to die.

In 1824 his great-great-great grandson George William Jerningham requested Parliament to reverse the attainder against William Howard and restore the title Viscount Stafford, which he then inherited.

The Unfinished Vespers of December 29, 1170

This recording by the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, founded by the late Mary Berry tells the story of the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket by recreating the vespers interrupted that night by Henry II's knights:

The story of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket has been told many times. There are contemporary eye-witness accounts of how the four knights rushed in and slew the Archbishop in his own cathedral of Canterbury; there are scholarly modern historical studies; the story is told in the stained-glass windows of the cathedral itself; and of course there are Chaucer’s entertaining Canterbury Tales… This recording approaches the story from another angle: it is an attempt to capture through music each major act of the grim drama as it unfolds. . . . It is rare to find intact the office music for the feast of St Thomas. In nearly all the sources the relevant pages have been torn out or defaced in the 16th century by order of Henry VIII. However, in an early 13th-century noted breviary from Lewes Priory it appears in pristine condition and it is from this source that the music for the recording has been transcribed.

Mary Berry was an Augustinian Canoness Congregation of Notre-Dame de Jupille in Belgium and a great champion of Gregorian Chant who died on May 1, 2008. Her Times obituary is here:

Devout and erudite, Berry radiated a joyful and sunny blessing, occasionally interspersed with crisp commands if singers flat-footed a wrong note. There were no concessions to ignorance — either of the chant or the liturgy — but her bubbling humour leavened long hours of choir practice. With a fund of interesting and mildly scurrilous anecdotes delivered with a twinkle in her eye, she was fortunate to attract many fine cantors to sing at festivals and record CDs on the Herald label.

The cantors of the Schola, a professional group of singers interested in Gregorian chant and early music, specialise in the reconstruction and performance of liturgy from the 10th century to modern times. Led by Berry, they were the first in the field to record a reconstruction of a complete festal service based on the tropes and organa of the Winchester Troper, and this won the Michael Beazley Medieval Recording of the Year in 1991. Their work was, and continues to be, very significant in bringing early music to a wider audience.

In 2000 she was awarded the Papal Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for her work with Gregorian chant, and in 2002 she was appointed CBE for her services to plainsong and Gregorian chant.

I ordered this CD last December and did not receive it until February! Customs between the U.K. and the U.S. held it up considerably. I will listen to it again today.

St. Thomas a Becket, pray for us.

It is rather interesting to note that the breviary that provided the office music for the Feast of St. Thomas a Becket survived the suppression of Lewes Priory, the great Cluniac house.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Rival to Madame Royale?

Princess Elizabeth, Charles I and Henrietta Maria's second daughter was born on December 28, 1635 and died imprisoned by Parliament on September 8, 1650. The portrait of her in the Palace of St. James by Millais depicts her as scholarly and young. As her father had in his youth, she had suffered from rickets and broke her leg at the age of seven. She was rather scholarly, learning Hebrew, Greek, Italian, Latin, and French. The princess was also known for her gentleness, with the nickname "Temperance."

She and her younger brother Henry were not allowed to join their mother and other siblings in Holland and France. She urged her older brother James to escape as soon as he could, lending him clothing to disguise himself. Elizabeth and Henry met with their father before his execution one last time and the princess wrote her recollection (she was 13; her brother 8):

He bid us tell my mother that his thoughts had never strayed from her, and that his love would be the same to the last. Withal, he commanded me and my brother to be obedient to her; and bid me send his blessing to the rest of my brothers and sisters, with communications to all his friends. Then, taking my brother Gloucester on his knee, he said, 'Sweetheart, now they will cut off thy father's head.' And Gloucester looking very intently upon him, he said again, "Heed, my child, what I say: they will cut off my head and perhaps make thee a king. But mark what I say. Thou must not be a king as long as thy brothers Charles and James do live; for they will cut off your brothers' heads when they can catch them, and cut off thy head too at the last, and therefore I charge you, do not be made a king by them.' At which my brother sighed deeply, and made answer: 'I will be torn in pieces first!' And these words, coming so unexpectedly from so young a child, rejoiced my father exceedingly. And his majesty spoke to him of the welfare of his soul, and to keep his religion, commanding him to fear God, and He would provide for him. Further, he commanded us all to forgive those people, but never to trust them; for they had been most false to him and those that gave them power, and he feared also to their own souls. And he desired me not to grieve for him, for he should die a martyr, and that he doubted not the Lord would settle his throne upon his son, and that we all should be happier than we could have expected to have been if he had lived; with many other things which at present I cannot remember.

He gave her a Bible and told her to read good Anglican books--and never to read any Catholic books!

After Charles' execution, the care of Elizabeth and Henry was a burden to Parliament. When Charles II claimed the throne in Scotland, Elizabeth was moved as a hostage to the Isle of Wight, where she died of pneumonia at Carisbrooke Castle on September 8, 1630. Her grave in St. Thomas Church, Newport, was unmarked until the reign of Queen Victoria, who directed that a suitable tomb be erected for the sad young princess.

Carlo Marochetti carved her effigy, showing her head pillowed upon a Bible open to the Gospel of St. Matthew: "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Above her effigy, the rest of the tomb depicts her imprisonment with an open grate that also reflects her final freedom, through death.

According to this blog, the Princess died with her head pillowed on the Bible her father had given to her and Parliament gave permission for her to join her family three days after she died.

Her story seems almost as sad as that of Marie-Therese, Madame Royale--perhaps more poignant and delicate.

Queen Victoria seems to have been interested in making sure the Stuart kings and princesses were taken care of in memory. In addition to this memorial, she had a hand in the side chapel dedicated to King James II in St. Germain-en-Laye. While we are currently so fascinated by the soap opera of the Tudor dynasty, the house of Hanover seems to have been influenced by the romance of the Stuarts. George III commissioned the monument to the Stuart Pretenders in St. Peter's in the Vatican, for another example.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Of the Father's Love Begotten

Within the Octave of Christmas, we continue to celebrate the feast of Christmas, of Jesus's Nativity each day. John Mason Neale translated the great incarnational hymn, Corde Natus, of Aurelius Prudentius. Sung to the plainchant Divinum Mysterium, it is one of my favorite hymns, especially with the plaintive repetition of "evermore and evermore":

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see, evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framèd; He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun, evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below, evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessèd, when the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face, evermore and evermore!

This is He whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord, evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing, evermore and evermore!

Righteous judge of souls departed, righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted none in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive, evermore and evermore!

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore!

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving, and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory, evermore and evermore!

This wikipedia article compares the original and another translation with JMN's.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Burning Babe

St. Robert Southwell's most admired poem:

The Burning Babe

As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, though scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed,
As though his floods should quench his flames, which with his tears were fed.
"Alas," quoth he, "but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts, or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood."
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas Day.

And another of the martyr's Christmas poems:

New Prince, New Pomp

Behold a silly tender Babe, in freezing winter night;
In homely manger trembling lies, alas a piteous sight:
The inns are full, no man will yield this little Pilgrim bed,
But forced He is with silly beasts, in crib to shroud His head.
Despise Him not for lying there, first what He is enquire:
An orient pearl is often found, in depth of dirty mire;
Weigh not His crib, His wooden dish, nor beasts that by Him feed:
Weigh not His mother's poor attire, nor Joseph's simple weed.
This stable is a Prince's court, the crib His chair of state:
The beasts are parcel of His pomp, the wooden dish His plate.
The persons in that poor attire, His royal liveries wear,
The Prince Himself is come from heaven, this pomp is prized there.
With joy approach, O Christian wight, do homage to thy King,
And highly prize this humble pomp, which He from heaven doth bring.

I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas Day celebration!

Newman on the Incarnation

Merry Christmas! Blessed John Henry Newman reminds us for the "reason for the season":

With these objects, then, it may be useful, on today's Festival, to call your attention to the Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation.

The Word was from the beginning, the Only-begotten {30} Son of God. Before all worlds were created, while as yet time was not, He was in existence, in the bosom of the Eternal Father, God from God, and Light from Light, supremely blessed in knowing and being known of Him, and receiving all divine perfections from Him, yet ever One with Him who begat Him. As it is said in the opening of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." If we may dare conjecture, He is called the Word of God, as mediating between the Father and all creatures; bringing them into being, fashioning them, giving the world its laws, imparting reason and conscience to creatures of a higher order, and revealing to them in due season the knowledge of God's will. And to us Christians He is especially the Word in that great mystery commemorated today, whereby He became flesh, and redeemed us from a state of sin.

He, indeed, when man fell, might have remained in the glory which He had with the Father before the world was. But that unsearchable Love, which showed itself in our original creation, rested not content with a frustrated work, but brought Him down again from His Father's bosom to do His will, and repair the evil which sin had caused. And with a wonderful condescension He came, not as before in power, but in weakness, in the form of a servant, in the likeness of that fallen creature whom He purposed to restore. So He humbled Himself; suffering all the infirmities of our nature in the likeness of sinful flesh, all but a sinner,—pure from all sin, yet subjected to all temptation,—and at length becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. {31}

I have said that when the Only-begotten Son stooped to take upon Him our nature, He had no fellowship with sin. It was impossible that He should. Therefore, since our nature was corrupt since Adam's fall, He did not come in the way of nature, He did not clothe Himself in that corrupt flesh which Adam's race inherits. He came by miracle, so as to take on Him our imperfection without having any share in our sinfulness. He was not born as other men are; for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." [John iii. 6.]

All Adam's children are children of wrath; so our Lord came as the Son of Man, but not the son of sinful Adam. He had no earthly father; He abhorred to have one. The thought may not be suffered that He should have been the son of shame and guilt. He came by a new and living way; not, indeed, formed out of the ground, as Adam was at the first, lest He should miss the participation of our nature, but selecting and purifying unto Himself a tabernacle out of that which existed. As in the beginning, woman was formed out of man by Almighty power, so now, by a like mystery, but a reverse order, the new Adam was fashioned from the woman. He was, as had been foretold, the immaculate "seed of the woman," deriving His manhood from the substance of the Virgin Mary; as it is expressed in the articles of the Creed, "conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."

Thus the Son of God became the Son of Man; mortal, but not a sinner; heir of our infirmities, not of our guiltiness; the offspring of the old race, yet {32} "the beginning of the" new "creation of God." Mary, His mother, was a sinner as others, and born of sinners; but she was set apart, "as a garden inclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed," to yield a created nature to Him who was her Creator. Thus He came into this world, not in the clouds of heaven, but born into it, born of a woman; He, the Son of Mary, and she (if it may be said), the mother of God. Thus He came, selecting and setting apart for Himself the elements of body and soul; then, uniting them, to Himself from their first origin of existence, pervading them, hallowing them by His own Divinity, spiritualizing them, and filling them with light and purity, the while they continued to be human, and for a time mortal and exposed to infirmity. And, as they grew from day to day in their holy union, His Eternal Essence still was one with them, exalting them, acting in them, manifesting Itself through them, so that He was truly God and Man, One Person,—as we are soul and body, yet one man, so truly God and man are not two, but One Christ. Thus did the Son of God enter this mortal world; and when He had reached man's estate, He began His ministry, preached the Gospel, chose His Apostles, suffered on the cross, died, and was buried, rose again and ascended on high, there to reign till the day when He comes again to judge the world. This is the All-gracious Mystery of the Incarnation, good to look into, good to adore; according to the saying in the text, "The Word was made flesh,—and dwelt among us."

The brief account thus given of the Catholic doctrine {33} of the incarnation of the Eternal Word, may be made more distinct by referring to some of those modes mentioned in Scripture, in which God has at divers times condescended to manifest Himself in His creatures, which come short of it.

The rest is here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Newman Sermon for Christmas Eve

"Christ, Hidden from the World":

His condescension in coming down from heaven, in leaving His Father's glory and taking flesh, is so far beyond power of words or thought, that one might consider at first sight that it mattered little whether He came as a prince or a beggar. And yet after all, it is much more wonderful that He came in low estate, for this reason; because it might have been thought beforehand, that, though He condescended to come on earth, yet He would not submit to be overlooked and despised: now the rich are not despised by the world, and the poor are. If He had come as a great prince or noble, the world without knowing a whit more that He was God, yet would at least have looked up to Him and honoured Him, as being a prince; but when He came in a low estate, He took upon him one additional humiliation, contempt,—being contemned, scorned, rudely passed by, roughly profaned by His creatures.

What were the actual circumstances of His coming? His Mother is a poor woman; she comes to Bethlehem to be taxed, travelling, when her choice would have been to remain at home. She finds there is no room in the inn; she is obliged to betake herself to a stable; she brings forth her firstborn Son, and lays Him in a manger. {241} That little babe, so born, so placed, is none other than the Creator of heaven and earth, the Eternal Son of God.

Well; He was born of a poor woman, laid in a manger, brought up to a lowly trade, that of a carpenter; and when He began to preach the Gospel He had not a place to lay His head: lastly, He was put to death, to an infamous and odious death, the death which criminals then suffered.

For the three last years of His life, He preached the Gospel, I say, as we read in Scripture; but He did not begin to do so till He was thirty years old. For the first thirty years of His life, He seems to have lived, just as a poor man would live now. Day after day, season after season, winter and summer, one year and then another, passed on, as might happen to any of us. He passed from being a babe in arms to being a child, and then He became a boy, and so He grew up "like a tender plant," increasing in wisdom and stature; and then He seems to have followed the trade of Joseph, His reputed father; going on in an ordinary way without any great occurrence, till He was thirty years old. How very wonderful is all this! that He should live here, doing nothing great, so long; living here, as if for the sake of living; not preaching, or collecting disciples, or apparently in any way furthering the cause which brought Him down from heaven. Doubtless there were deep and wise reasons in God's counsels for His going on so long in obscurity; I only mean, that we do not know them. . . .

We are very apt to wish we had been born in the days of Christ, and in this way we excuse our misconduct, when conscience reproaches {246} us. We say, that had we had the advantage of being with Christ, we should have had stronger motives, stronger restraints against sin. I answer, that so far from our sinful habits being reformed by the presence of Christ, the chance is, that those same habits would have hindered us from recognizing Him. We should not have known He was present; and if He had even told us who He was, we should not have believed Him. Nay, had we seen His miracles (incredible as it may seem), even they would not have made any lasting impression on us. Without going into this subject, consider only the possibility of Christ being close to us, even though He did no miracle, and our not knowing it; yet I believe this literally would have been the case with most men. . . .

Let us then pray Him ever to enlighten the eyes of our understanding, that we may belong to the Heavenly Host, not to this world. As the carnal-minded would not perceive Him even in Heaven, so the spiritual heart may approach Him, possess Him, see Him, even upon earth.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Newman Advent Sermon: "Shrinking from Christ's Coming"

This is a surprising title for a sermon, isn't it?-"Shrinking from Christ's Coming":

BEFORE Christ came, the faithful remnant of Israel were consoled with the promise that "their eyes should see" Him, who was to be their "salvation." "Unto you that fear My Name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings." Yet it is observable that the prophecy, though cheering and encouraging, had with it something of an awful character too. First, it was said, "The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the messenger of the Covenant whom ye delight in." Yet it is soon added, "But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap." [Mal. iv. 2; iii. 1, 2.]

The same mixture of fear with comfort is found in the Disciples after His Resurrection. The women departed from the sepulchre "with fear and great joy." {47} They "trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man, for they were afraid." The Apostles "were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit." "They believed not for joy, and wondered." And our Lord said to them, "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?" On another occasion, "None of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord." [Matt. xxviii. 8. Mark xvi. 8. Luke xxiv. 37, 38. John xxi. 12.] It might be from slowness to believe, or from misconception, or from the mere perplexity of amazement, but so it was; they exulted and they were awed.

Still more remarkable is the account of our Lord's appearance to St. John in the Book of Revelation; more remarkable because St. John had no doubt or perplexity. Christ had ascended; the Apostle had received the gift of the Holy Ghost; yet he "fell at His feet as dead."

This reflection leads us on to a parallel thought concerning the state and prospects of all Christians in every age. We too are looking out for Christ's coming,—we are bid look out,—we are bid pray for it; and yet it is to be a time of judgment. It is to be the deliverance of all Saints from sin and sorrow for ever; yet they, every one of them, must undergo an awful trial. How then can any look forward to it with joy, not knowing (for no one knows) the certainty of his own salvation? And the difficulty is increased when we come to pray for it,—to pray for its coming soon: how can we pray that Christ would come, that the day of {48} judgment would hasten, that His kingdom would come, that His kingdom may be at once,—may come on us this day or tomorrow,—when by so coming He would be shortening the time of our present life, and cut off those precious years given us for conversion, amendment, repentance and sanctification? Is there not an inconsistency in professing to wish our Judge already come, when we do not feel ourselves ready for Him? In what sense can we really and heartily pray that He would cut short the time, when our conscience tells us that, even were our life longest, we should have much to do in a few years?

Newman then examines the different comings of Christ and how we should prepare for them with an all too human mixture of trepidation and hope: as He comes to us in prayer, in Holy Communion, for His second coming in judgement, etc. He concludes:

Lastly, let me say more distinctly what I have already alluded to, that in that solemn hour we shall have, if we be His, the inward support of His Spirit too, carrying us on towards Him, and "witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God." God is mysteriously threefold; and while He remains in the highest heaven, He comes to judge the world;—and while He judges the world, He is in us also, bearing us up and going forth in us to meet Himself. God the Son is without, but God the Spirit is within,—and when the Son asks, the Spirit will answer. That Spirit is vouchsafed to us here; and if we yield ourselves to His gracious influences, so that He draws up our thoughts and wills to heavenly things, and becomes one with us, He will assuredly be still in us and give us confidence at the Day of Judgment. He will be with us, and strengthen us; and how great His strength is, what mind of man can conceive? Gifted with that supernatural strength, we may be able to lift up our eyes to our Judge when He looks on us, and look on Him in turn, though with deep awe, yet without confusion of face, as if in the consciousness of innocence.

That hour must come at length upon every one of us. When it comes, may the countenance of the Most Holy quicken, not consume us; may the flame of judgment be to us only what it was to the Three Holy Children, over whom the fire had no power!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Carols in English Cathedrals

I mentioned this yesterday on the Son Rise Morning Show during my discussion of the changing celebrations or non-celebrations of Christmas after the English Reformation: Fortunately for all of us who love Christmas Carols, England rebounded very well from the Interregnum's interruption of Christmas celebrations. Many Church of England cathedrals are celebrating the great English tradition of carols with concerts and services this week, including those at Canterbury, Ely, Chicester, Gloucester and Christ Church in Oxford, for example.

This 15th century English carol is quoted briefly in the first Stave of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol, before Ebeneezer Scrooge chases the singer away:

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

In Bethlehem, in Israel,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and John Mason Neale

We are near the end of the "O" antiphons in these last days of Advent.

December 17:
Veni, O Sapientia,
Quae hic disponis omnia,
Veni, viam prudentiae
Ut doceas et gloriae.
Refrain:Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.

December 18:
Veni, Veni Adonai!
Qui populo in Sinai
Legem dedisti vertice,
In Majestate gloriae.

December 19:
Veni, O Jesse virgula,
Ex hostis tuos ungula,
De specu tuos tartari
Educ et antro barathri.

December 20:
Veni, Clavis Davidica,
Regna reclude caelica,
Fac iter tutum superum,
Et claude vias inferum.

December 21:
Veni, Veni O Oriens!
Solare nos adveniens,
Noctis depelle nebulas,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.

December 22:
Veni, Veni, Rex gentium,
Veni, Redemptor omnium,
Ut salvas tuos famulos
Peccati sibi conscios.

December 23:
Veni, Veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exsilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

The English translation most commonly used (with some adaptations) is by John Mason Neale (1818 to 1866), Anglican minister and High Church translator of Catholic and Orthodox Hymns. The English Hymnal of 1906 contains 63 of his translations and six original hymns.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. Refrain

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan's tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave. Refrain

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

O come, thou Root of Jesse's tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call. Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. Refrain

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear. Refrain

Here is some commentary on these beautiful antiphons.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Preview: Newman and His Contemporaries

Warren at Eighth Day Books special ordered this book for me and I picked it up last Friday after our Chesterton Society meeting. Looks like a fascinating volume!

Book description:

No one in nineteenth-century England had a more varied circle of friends and contacts than John Henry Newman (1801–1890), the priest, theologian, educator, philosopher, poet and writer, who began his career as an Anglican, converted to Catholicism and ended his days a Cardinal. That he was also a leading member of the Oxford Movement, brought the Oratory to England, founded the Catholic University in Dublin and corresponded with men and women from all backgrounds from around the world made him a figure of enormous interest to his contemporaries. In this study of Newman's personal influence, Edward Short looks closely at some of Newman's relations with his contemporaries to show how this prophetic thinker drew on his personal relationships to develop his many insights into faith and life. Some of the contemporaries covered include Keble, Pusey, Gladstone, Matthew Arnold, Richard Holt Hutton, Lady Georgiana Fullerton, and Thackeray. Based on a careful reading of Newman's correspondence, the book offers a fresh look at an extraordinary figure whose work continues to influence our own contemporaries.

Table of Contents:

Preface \ Introduction \ Chapter 1: John Keble and the Crisis of Tractarianism \ Chapter 2: Staying Put: John Keble After 1845 \ Chapter 3: The Anglican Difficulties of Edward Pusey \ Chapter 4: The Certainty of Vocation: Newman and the Froudes \ Chapter 5: A Better Country: Newman and Public Life \ Chapter 6: Newman and the Female Faithful \ Chapter 7: Newman and Gladstone \ Chapter 8: Newman, Thackeray and Vanity Fair \ Chapter 9: Newman and the Americans \ Chapter 10: On the Track of Truth: Newman and Richard Holt Hutton \ Chapter 11: Culture and Hollowness: Newman and Matthew Arnold \ Chapter 12: Newman and Arthur Hugh Clough \ Chapter 13: Newman on Newman \ Biographical Index \ Bibliographical Note \ Index

The publisher provides a preview here.

One of the Most Consistent Men in the World: Roger Williams

Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island and one of the most consistent men in the history of the world, at least whom I've ever read about, was born on December 21 in 1603. He was born and baptized in London, although the records were destroyed in the Great Fire of London. He studied at Cambridge and was ordained in the Church of England, but he was not only a Puritan, but a Separatist. Williams was convinced that the Church of England was a totally corrupt church and that a new church must be formed.

He came to the New World in 1631 with his wife Mary and had six children. Williams soon propounded his three main ideas: separatism, the separation of church and state, and freedom of religion. To the colonial leaders, the second idea seemed very strange. Williams disagreed with the state enforcing any laws based upon the first of the commandments (against idolatry and blasphemy, for keeping the sabbath, etc) but demanded absolute freedom of religion. Please note, however, that he thought Catholics should wear some article of clothing to identify them.

At the same time, his separatist beliefs were stretched to their most consistent conclusion: Williams left the Church of England, the Congregational/Puritan community, the Baptists, and finally any visible, institutional church. He doubted the efficacy of his own baptism, since it was administered by a Church of England minister; he doubted the efficacy of anyone's baptism, since at some point the minister would have been part of the Church of England or some other corrupt, papist-tinged church. Williams looked for a new apostle to be sent by God to establish a new church, because all the others on earth were corrupt.

Read more about his career here, including his exile from the Massachusetts colony and his new settlement in Providence. He was baptized again in 1638 in the first Baptish church in Providence--but he stayed there only a few months because, again, he became convinced that it was not separate enough, and somehow tainted by the Great Apostacy of the ancient church. Williams' absolute consistency led him, as Perry Miller explained in his biography, to be a kind of non-Christian hoping for Christianity to be re-established on earth. Edward S. Morgan's book, Roger Williams: The Church and the State is also helpful for understanding this most consistent, uncompromising man.

As I read Morgan's book in particular, I thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson's saying: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do." For how could Roger Williams reconcile his separatism and lack of faith in Christian baptism and the Church with Jesus Christ's statements in Holy Scripture promising His constant presence with His Church on earth and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide His followers? My little mind just can't figure that out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Beautiful Marian Hymn by Father Faber

The Once I Was a Clever Boy blog posted this beautiful hymn by Father Frederick Faber, Oratorian and convert:

Like the dawning of the morning
On the mountains’ golden heights,
Like the breaking of the moon-beams
On the gloom of cloudy nights;
Like a secret told by Angels,
Getting known upon the earth,
Is the Mother’s Expectation
Of Messiah’s speedy birth.

Thou wert happy, Blessed Mother,
With the very bliss of Heaven,
Since the Angel’s salutation
In thy raptured ear was given;
Since the Ave of that midnight,
When thou wert anointed Queen,
Like a river over-flowing
Hath the grace within thee been.

On the mountains of Judea,
Like the chariot of the Lord,
Thou wert lifted in thy spirit
By the uncreated Word;
Gifts and graces flowed upon thee
In a sweet celestial strife
And the growing of thy Burden
Was the lightening of thy life.

And what wonders have been in thee
All the day and all the night,
While the angels fell before thee,
To adore the Light of Light.
While the glory of the Father
Hath been in thee as a home,
And the sceptre of creation
Hath been wielded in thy womb.

And the sweet strains of the Psalmist
Were a joy beyond control,
And the visions of the prophets
Burnt like transports in thy soul;
But the Burden that was growing,
And was felt so tenderly,
It was Heaven, it was Heaven,
Come before its time to thee.

Oh the feeling of thy Burden,
It was touch and taste and sight;
It was newer still and newer,
All those nine months, day and night.
Like a treasure unexhausted,
Like a vision uconfess’d,
Like a rapture unforgotten,
It lay ever at they breast.

Every moment did that Burden
Press upon thee with new grace;
Happy Mother! Thou art longing
To behold the Saviour’s Face!
Oh his Human face and features
Must be passing sweet to see
Thou hast seen them, happy Mother!
Ah then, show them now to me.

Thou hast waited, Child of David,
And thy waiting now is o’er;
Thou hast seen Him, Blessed Mother,
And wilt see Him evermore!
O His Human Face and Features,
They were passing sweet to see;
Thou beholdest them this moment,
Mother, show them now to me.

Firmly I Believe and Truly, It's My Birthday!

And here is my birthday present from my husband!

"The Spiritual Tradition of Catholic England, An Anthology of Writings from 1483 to 1999" is obviously not a book to be read straight through, but to be dipped into, sampled, and surveyed often. I want to read the Introductions to the three parts first and then consult some of the extracts from both familiar and new writers.

[BTW, his other gift to me is a DVD of Kung Fu Panda 2, in which Po searches for inner peace!]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Book Review: Salvation at Stake

Unlike Anne Dillon's study, The Construction of Martyrdom in the English Catholic Community, reviewed here by Anne Barbeau Gardiner, Brad S. Gregory's Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe takes the martyrs of the Reformation period seriously and without what he calls "the hermeneutic of suspicion", which undercuts the reality of the martyr's devotion and belief. He dedicates the first chapter, "A Complex of Martyrs" to explaining why and how he has done so, at one point stating:

My depiction of sixteenth-century Christians is intended to be one in which they would have recognized themselves, not puzzled over modern or postmodern configurations of who they were. I have sought to reconstruct, not deconstruct, their commitments and experiences as far as the evidence permits. This holds not only for the martyrs, but also for fellow believers who encouraged them, authorities who tried to dissuage them, and those who responded to their deaths both positively and negatively. Several objectives can be achieved by telling a story of embattled convictions in action not from an external perspective based on explanatory theory, but rather through an exploration of the relevant traditions in turn, one that is sensitive to their emphases, nuances, and changes over time.

I think Gregory achieved his goals: he balances the three groups of martyrs (Protestant, Anabaptist, and Catholic) well; acknowledges their different understanding of the martyrs' impact on their communities; notes the reluctance of the officials (except for Richard Topcliffe, torturer and executioner extraordinaire) to condemn the accused, as they hoped for conversion and public recantation; and the crucial distinctions each group made between their martyrs and the others condemned for false religion.

Of course, I was most interested in the chapter on the Catholic martyrs, in which Gregory explores the rather muted reaction to St. Thomas More's and St. John Fisher's martyrdoms (Francois I of France planned some demonstration of his disapproval but then deferred to Emperor Charles V since it was his Aunt Catherine who was treated so badly by Henry VIII). He refers to the Catholic martyrs under Henry VIII as "defensive" martyrs who died to protect the unity of the Church under the Vicar of Christ.

While describing those whom I call the Recusant Martyrs he notes how the "emphasis on the glory of martyrdom spurred the zeal to die for Christ" and yet "how the virtue of humility bridled the same desire." This certainly reminded me of St. Robert Southwell, who called himself a mere "worm" while acknowledging that he was in his thirty-third year, the same age as Jesus when He suffered and died. Gregory notes a pattern of the martyrs imitating Christ through their suffering and death, while they became the pattern for others (like St. Henry Walpole and St. Philip Howard following St. Edmund Campion to the Church and to martyrdom). Indeed, William Allen and others emphasized the potential for conversions when the stories of the martyrs were told and offered as examples of this intense and complete imitation of Christ.

Gregory notes that 203 editions of 50 works recounting the suffering and execution of the English Catholic martyrs were published between 1580 and 1640--and 95 of those editions appeared in the 1580's alone. These books, illustrations of the executions at Tyburn Tree were disseminated to the Catholic world, where the majority of Catholics had no opportunity for such sacrifice, thus spurring the interest in relics, praying to the martyrs as saints for intercession for miracles, and, generally, to devotion to the martyrs as saints, even though no cause for canonization was started until the mid seventeenth century and later.

Book description from Harvard University Press:

Thousands of men and women were executed for incompatible religious views in sixteenth-century Europe. The meaning and significance of those deaths are studied here comparatively for the first time, providing a compelling argument for the importance of martyrdom as both a window onto religious sensibilities and a crucial component in the formation of divergent Christian traditions and identities.

Gregory explores Protestant, Catholic, and Anabaptist martyrs in a sustained fashion, addressing the similarities and differences in their self-understanding. He traces the processes and impact of their memorialization by co-believers, and he reconstructs the arguments of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities responsible for their deaths. In addition, he assesses the controversy over the meaning of executions for competing views of Christian truth, and the intractable dispute over the distinction between true and false martyrs. He employs a wide range of sources, including pamphlets, martyrologies, theological and devotional treatises, sermons, songs, woodcuts and engravings, correspondence, and legal records. Reconstructing religious motivation, conviction, and behavior in early modern Europe, Gregory shows us the shifting perspectives of authorities willing to kill, martyrs willing to die, martyrologists eager to memorialize, and controversialists keen to dispute.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1. A Complex of Martyrs
On Understanding Early Modern Christianity
The Nature of the Martyrological Sources
The Course of Exposition

Chapter 2. The Late Medieval Inheritance
The Absence and Presence of Martyrs in the Late Middle Ages
Suffering Patiently, Dying Well, and the Passion of Christ
Christian Martyrs outside the Church in the Late Middle Ages

Chapter 3. The Willingness to Kill
Prosecuting Religious Criminals
The Duty of Intolerance
The Trajectory of Argumentation
Laws, Institutions, and the Contingencies of Practice

Chapter 4. The Willingness to Die
The Poverty of Theory
Foundations: Faith and Scripture
Contemporary Communities: Social Support and Sustenance
Historical Communities: Pedigrees of the Persecuted
Prison Activities: Practicing the Beliefs
The Art of Dying Well

Chapter 5. Witnesses for the Gospel: Protestants and Martyrdom
The Early Evangelical Martyrs and Emergent Protestant Identity
Avoiding Idolatry, Following Christ: Convictions to Die For
The Midcentury Martyrologies
The Protestant Martyrologies in National Contexts

Chapter 6. Nachfolge Christi: Anabaptists and Martyrdom
Müntzer to Münster: Forging an Anabaptist
Martyrological Mentality
Anabaptist Martyrs in the Low Countries
The Transformation of the Dutch Mennonite Martyrological Tradition

Chapter 7. The New Saints: Roman Catholics and Martyrdom
Defensive Martyrdom: The Henrician Catholics
The Passion for Passion in Post-Tridentine Catholicism
The Role of the Martyrs in Catholic Devotional Life

Chapter 8. The Conflict of Interpretations
The Weaknesses of Nondoctrinal Criteria
"Not the Punishment, but the Cause, Makes a Martyr"
Implications and Conclusions

Conclusion: A Shared and Shattered Worldview


Please note that I purchased this book.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

King's College Chapel, Cambridge

The choirs at King's College Chapel are preparing for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols this Saturday, Christmas Eve:

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the Christmas Eve service held in King's College Chapel. The Festival was introduced in 1918 to bring a more imaginative approach to worship. It was first broadcast in 1928 and is now broadcast to millions of people around the world.

The service includes carols and readings from the Bible. The opening carol is always 'Once in Royal David's City', and there is always a new, specially commissioned carol.

This year's commissioned carol is a setting of Christina Rossetti's 'Christmas Eve' by Tansy Davies - see the news story about it.

King's College and the Chapel were founded by King Henry VI. Work on the chapel continued during the Yorkist reigns of Edward IV and Richard III, but much of the work, especially the stained glass, was completed by Henry VIII.

Here is the text of the Rossetti Poem:

Christmas Eve
Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Earth, strike up your music,
Birds that sing and bells that ring;
Heaven hath answering music
For all Angels soon to sing:
Earth, put on your whitest
Bridal robe of spotless snow:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

Remember that the BBC broadcasts the Festival.

"Give my figgy pudding!": The Puritans Against Christmas

Courtesy of Tea at Trianon: The Puritans ban Christmas during the Interregnum (the period between the fall and execution of Charles I until the restoration of Charles II)--and don't understand why people keep breaking the rules, steaming their puddings and roasting their geese!

This is surely one instance that supports H.L. Mencken's definition: Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

Conflict over Christmas marked the relations between Parliament and the Court of Charles I before the English Civil War and the capture and execution of Charles I. The Puritans knew what the word ChristMAS means--and that the celebration of the Catholic Mass was at the center of the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. They also thought all the other festivities and feasting centered around Christmas were "Popish" and "Papastical," very bad things to be! Once they had the power, if Parliament proclaimed the fourth Saturday of December was to be a day of fasting and the fourth Saturday of December happened to be December 25, Christmas Day, the day of fasting trumped the day of feasting and celebration. Even if Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, there was to be no special commemoration. The Book of Common Prayer was banned and the Church of England, like the Catholic Church, gone underground. Celebrating Christmas was an act of rebellion against the rebels who had become the rulers of England!

As both Diane Purkiss and Alister McGrath have commented, Puritanical control of England during the Interregnum period doomed the future of radical Protestantism in England, while the Restoration of Charles II and the Stuart Monarchy restored the celebration of Christmas in England. The Restoration Parliament made sure that Puritan influence was stifled. And that's too bad in some ways, for certainly Charles II's Court needed some discipline and moral direction; but after the experiments of the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, any such protests against misbehavior at Court was just a reminder of mean people who took away one's figgy pudding and roast goose! As Alister McGrath wrote in his history of Protestantism, the Puritans failed in England because they "lost any popular sympathy through their religious rigidity".

Brian Patrick and I will discuss this theme on the Son Rise Morning Show sometime this week--I'll update and let you know ASAP!

UPDATE: please note that the BBC's History Magazine features a cover story on "popular resistance to the Puritan assault on Christmas during the 1640s and 1650s" by Mark Stoyle, Professor at the University of Southampton! A facebook friend let me know.

UPDATE: I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show this morning--December 21--Listen Live Here!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chesterton's Catholic Brown (or Brown Catholic?)

The Wichita branch of the American Chesterton Society met last night at Eighth Day Books. We had read and discussed the first five stories in the anthology of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown mystery stories published by Ignatius Press: Father Brown of the Church of Rome, edited with an introduction by John Peterson. We will finish up the second five in January 2012. If you're ever in Wichita, Kansas, you have to visit Eighth Day Books!

According to the publisher:

This is a unique collection of ten of Chesterton's famous Father Brown stories which puts special emphasis on the role that Brown's Catholic faith played in helping him solve the murder mysteries. As Dorothy Sayers once wrote, Chesterton was "the first man of our time to introduce the great name of God into a detective story ... to enlarge the boundaries of the detective story by making it deal with death and real wickedness and real, that is to say, divine judgment."

This paperback Father Brown edition includes generous footnotes (not available in other editions) which help to clarify the literary and historical allusions made by Father Brown. It is based on the texts of the original editions by Chesterton for assurance of complete authenticity, and is set in easily readable type.

These are excellent short detective yarns in the classic British tradition of Sherlock Holmes - puzzling concoctions of mysterious crimes, dubious suspects and ambiguous clues. They are among the very best of the Father Brown stories.

All of the stories turn on the anti-Catholicism of those around Father Brown--they usually mock his religion, his vocation, his integrity and intelligence. Then he solves the mystery at hand, usually by reference to his Catholic religion and sometimes even to his vocation, always displaying his intelligence and integrity.

The stories in the collection are:

1. The Chief Mourner of Marne
2. The Red Moon of Maru
3. The Miracle of Moon Crescent
4. The Resurrection of Father Brown
5. The Man with Two Beards
6. The Curse of the Golden Cross
7. The Secret Garden
8. The Flying Stars
9. The Honour of Israel Gow
10. The Insoluble Problem

The notes explain some terms and historical concepts--but there is one flagrant error. The editor confuses Mary I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots on page 220 in the penultimate story!

Chesterton's stories are always filled with spectacle and screen-setting that provide both the clues and the red herrings that leave the others involved in the mystery dumbfounded. Father Brown uses his knowledge of fallen human nature, his observations of the scene, and his sense of what is ridiculous or incongruous to uncover what is true.

Black and Brown and read all over: Very enjoyable!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Newman's Advent Sermon on "Worship, a Preparation for Christ's Coming"

The picture above is from St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wichita, where my husband and I often attend Sunday Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite (aka the Traditional Latin Mass, the usus antiquor, etc). Here is an excerpt from another advent sermon from the Parochial and Plain Sermons by Blessed John Henry Newman:

This indeed is the most momentous reason for religious worship, as far as we have grounds for considering it a true one. Men sometimes ask, Why need they profess religion? Why need they go to church? Why need they observe certain rites and ceremonies? Why need they watch, pray, fast, and meditate? Why is it not enough to be just, honest, sober, benevolent, and otherwise virtuous? Is not this the true and real worship of God? Is not activity in mind and conduct the most acceptable way of approaching Him? How can they please Him by submitting to certain religious forms, and taking part in certain religious acts? Or if they must do so, why may they not choose their own? Why must they come to church for them? Why must they be partakers in what the Church calls Sacraments? I answer, they must do so, first of all and especially, because God tells them so to do. But besides this, I observe that we see this plain reason {8} why, that they are one day to change their state of being. They are not to be here for ever. Direct intercourse with God on their part now, prayer and the like, may be necessary to their meeting Him suitably hereafter: and direct intercourse on His part with them, or what we call sacramental communion, may be necessary in some incomprehensible way, even for preparing their very nature to bear the sight of Him.

Let us then take this view of religious service; it is "going out to meet the Bridegroom," who, if not seen "in His beauty," will appear in consuming fire. Besides its other momentous reasons, it is a preparation for an awful event, which shall one day be. What it would be to meet Christ at once without preparation, we may learn from what happened even to the Apostles when His glory was suddenly manifested to them. St. Peter said, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." And St. John, "when he saw Him, fell at His feet as dead." [Luke v. 8. Rev. i. 17.]

This being the case, it is certainly most merciful in God to vouchsafe to us the means of preparation, and such means as He has actually appointed. When Moses came down from the Mount, and the people were dazzled at his countenance, he put a veil over it. That veil is so far removed in the Gospel, that we are in a state of preparation for its being altogether removed. We are with Moses in the Mount so far, that we have a sight of God; we are with the people beneath it so far, that Christ does not visibly show Himself. He has put a veil on, and He sits among us silently and secretly. {9} When we approach Him, we know it only by faith; and when He manifests Himself to us, it is without our being able to realize to ourselves that manifestation.

Such then is the spirit in which we should come to all His ordinances, considering them as anticipations and first-fruits of that sight of Him which one day must be. When we kneel down in prayer in private, let us think to ourselves, Thus shall I one day kneel down before His very footstool, in this flesh and this blood of mine; and He will be seated over against me, in flesh and blood also, though divine. I come, with the thought of that awful hour before me, I come to confess my sin to Him now, that He may pardon it then, and I say, "O Lord, Holy God, Holy and Strong, Holy and Immortal, in the hour of death and in the day of judgment, deliver us, O Lord!"

Again, when we come to church, then let us say:—The day will be when I shall see Christ surrounded by His Holy Angels. I shall be brought into that blessed company, in which all will be pure, all bright. I come then to learn to endure the sight of the Holy One and His Servants; to nerve myself for a vision which is fearful before it is ecstatic, and which they only enjoy whom it does not consume. When men in this world have to undergo any great thing, they prepare themselves beforehand, by thinking often of it, and they call this making up their mind. Any unusual trial they thus make familiar to them. Courage is a necessary step in gaining certain goods, and courage is gained by steady thought. Children are scared, and close their eyes, at the vision of some mighty warrior {10} or glorious king. And when Daniel saw the Angel, like St. John, "his comeliness was turned in him into corruption, and he retained no strength." [Dan. x. 8.] I come then to church, because I am an heir of heaven. It is my desire and hope one day to take possession of my inheritance: and I come to make myself ready for it, and I would not see heaven yet, for I could not bear to see it. I am allowed to be in it without seeing it, that I may learn to see it. And by psalm and sacred song, by confession and by praise, I learn my part.

Read the rest here.

The birth of Katherine of Aragon

Henry VIII's first wife, Princess of Wales, Spanish Ambassador for her father, Queen Regent, and mother of six of his children, Katherine of Aragon was born December 16, 1485, the youngest daughter of Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon. As I've commented before, she resembled her mother, fair and light-haired--not dark as so often depicted on screen in movies about Henry VIII and his wives.

Many aspects of her life's story revolve around her second husband's efforts to have their marriage annulled, but I would like to highlight her interest in her surviving daughter Mary's education. Katherine herself had received a fine humanist education, learning Latin and Greek, Spanish and French, studying the classics, history and canon and civil law. Erasmus himself commended her learning and appreciation for literature. She had been prepared to rule and she wanted her daughter to be prepared also.

Juan Luis Vives of Spain became Mary's tutor and wrote a handbook on the education of Christian females which he dedicated to Katherine of Aragon: De Institutione Feminae Christianae. He detailed the course of Mary's study in De ratione studii puerilis. While he is not a feminist nor overemphasizes female virtue, he is certainly not a misogynist although he is opposed to fancy clothing and makeup. Vives resided at Corpus Christi College in Oxford where he lectured on philosophy as a Doctor of Law. Henry and Katherine attended some his lectures. Because he supported Katherine against Henry in the King's Great Matter, he fled to the Continent, residing in Bruges.

The care Katherine took in the education of her daughter demonstrates another great quality of this excellent queen. She did not just leave Mary in the hands of her tutor but continued to take an active interest in her progress. Separation from her daughter, as well as from the man she always regarded as her lawful and true husband were the great sorrows at the end of her life. That Henry forbade contact between mother and daughter, especially when Katherine became very ill is another demonstration of his monstrous desire to punish those who opposed his will in his Great Matter.

I reviewed Giles Tremlett's Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII in January this year. According to Amazon, there are two new biographies coming, one by Patrick Williams and other by Julia Fox, a dual biography of Catherine and her sister Juana. Both Williams and Fox use the word "tragic" in their subtitles.

(The painting above depicts Katherine at age 14 as St. Mary Magdalen, painted while she was still in Spain.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent and Ember Days in "Merrie Olde Englande"

In the Catholic Church in the Latin Rite today, Advent is emphasized as a time of waiting, preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ--in the future and in history. There are some elements of penitence: vestments are purple; we do not sing the Gloria at Sunday Masses; we hear often about the counter-cultural nature of Advent as we wait to celebrate Christmas and then celebrate Christmas for a season and not just a day. That's the position of Advent overall. [Note that Eastern Rite Catholics observe a more penitential season of fasting and abstinence, the Nativity Fast or the Fast of St. Philip.]

Before the English Reformation, Advent was a season of penitence and fasting--except I suppose where the Boy Bishop handed out treats and declared holidays from December 6 to December 29!!--preparing for the feast of Christmas with its joyous celebration. There were no marriages during the season of Advent (or of Lent) and the Ember Days , the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Gaudete Sunday, were days of fasting and abstinence. There are also Ember Days observed during Lent, after Pentecost, and after the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross in September, thus the illustration above that represents those seasons.

As Christmas was one of the great feasts of the year when the laity would receive Holy Communion, parishioners prepared by receiving the Sacrament of Penance, examining their consciences, confessing their sins, and fulfilling the penance given by the priest. That is something parishes in our diocese maintain--the deaneries plan penance services before Christmas as they do before Easter.

As Eamon Duffy comments in both The Stripping of the Altars and The Voices of Morebath, the seasons and feasts of the Church year were integrated parts of the social and personal life of Catholic Christians in England before the English Reformations of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I. They provided order and remembrance; most events would be dated by a religious date: a child was born two days after Michaelmas; a couple were married five days after Christmas; a father died on the eve of Candlemas. (Wouldn't help much to use the movable feasts of Easter and Pentecost!)

The feasts and seasons provided a pattern of work and rest, fasting and feasting, life and death. They were connected to the seasons and rhythm of events in the natural world, planting and harvesting, preparing and gathering. That pattern is certainly something lost after the Reformation Parliament. And of course now, as Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, "Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;/ And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;/And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil/Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod." We are often too separated from the rhythms of nature as we pursue worldly, work-a-day ends. I don't live in a big city, but I have never really experienced a close connection to the land and nature in a rural life. Fortunately, we still have these liturgical seasons to remind us of reality. Or, as Hopkins said much better than I:

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Image Source.

Maurice Baring, RIP

As Joseph Pearce comments, it's not fair that Maurice Baring is ignored when Chesterton and Belloc are lionized. He references the portrait of Baring, Belloc and Chesterton which is among the illustrations in Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, and G.B. Shaw's nickname "ChesterBelloc" (which should have been ChesterBarBelloc!):

His fame and reputation have been largely eclipsed by the enduring popularity of his two brothers-in-arms. This is both unfortunate and unjust because Baring deserves recognition as a distinguished poet and novelist in his own right.

Like Chesterton, Baring converted to Catholicism partly under Belloc's influence, and it is possible, perhaps probable, that he would never have emerged as one of the foremost Catholic novelists of the century if he had never met his mercurial mentor. Writing of his first encounter with Belloc in Oxford in 1897, Baring remarked that he was "a brilliant orator and conversationalist . . . who lives by his wits." The men soon became good friends, but Baring remained unconvinced of Belloc's vociferous and vehement championing of the Catholic Church. When his friend Reggie Balfour informed him in the autumn of 1899 that he "felt a strong desire to become a Catholic," Baring was "extremely surprised and disconcerted" and sought to discourage him from taking such a drastic step.

In spite of his unbelief, Baring accompanied Balfour to a low Mass and found himself pleasantly surprised. "It impressed me greatly . . . One felt one was looking on at something extremely ancient. The behavior of the congregation, and the expression on their faces impressed me greatly too. To them it was evidently real."

There was a potent postscript to this episode, which perhaps had a great influence on Baring's eventual conversion. Soon after their attendance at Mass, Reggie Balfour sent Baring an epitaph, copied from a tombstone in Rome and translated from the Latin: "Here lies Robert Peckham, Englishman and Catholic, who, after England's break with the Church, left England not being able to live without the faith and who, coming to Rome, died not being able to live without his country."

The epitaph is to be found in the Church of San Gregorio in Rome, and its underlying tragedy produced a marked and lasting effect on Baring's whole view of the Reformation. He always possessed a melancholy nature, and such imagery provided the inspiration for many of his novels. More specifically, the epitaph itself provided the starting point for his writing of the historical novel, Robert Peckham, 30 years later.

I read Robert Peckham and enjoyed how Baring depicted the obedience of the monarch's subjects accepting the religious changes during the Tudor dynasty. I thought the psychology was about right--the divided loyalty, the desire to remain Catholic and English, faithful to their Church and their country, the hope that things would change and they would be able to go on living their faith . . . until Peckham finds that he just can't, and goes into exile.

Maurice Baring died on December 14, 1945; he suffered from Parkinson's disease the last 15 years of his life. More about his life and career here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Them's Fightin' Words!--"Is Belloc Best Forgotten?"

Based on a reading of A.N. Wilson's biography of Hilaire Belloc, Father Alexander Lucie-Smith asks that question in a Catholic Herald article:

. . . I once lived with a priest who loved to preach on the subject of “Europe is the faith, and the faith is Europe”; and yet Belloc himself is nowadays neglected.

Mr Wilson’s excellent biography tells us why in terms that are rapidly understandable. Belloc was cursed with the necessity of making money all his life, and consequently wrote far too many books, most of which were hurried productions, indeed not written at all, but dictated. In this he sounds like that other most prolific author, Dame Barbara Cartland. Belloc could turn out a book in a week. He was a constant traveller too, and how he got any time to do any reading remains unclear. His history books are very thin on fact and solid research, and long on argument, and the arguments, one gets the impression, are repeated again and again.

Father Lucie-Smith also does not admire Belloc's Path to Rome, which I have mentioned before, and did admire. I do think the headline unfortunate--its one thing to say that his works might not stand the test of time, but to assign the man to oblivion is a little harsh. I do believe that Frederick Wilhelmson and Joseph Pearce, and Father McCloskey would disagree--and the owner of the Hilaire Belloc blog would definitely disagree!

I have enjoyed reading Belloc's Path to Rome twice, and know that much of his work on English and French history, while not up to the standard of profession history, has been proved correct in his interpretation of events. I believe it was Father Vidmar in his book on English Catholic historians writing about the English Reformation who said that Father Hughes and the later revisionists provided the footnotes and rigorous research Belloc neglected. Frederick Wilhelmson concurs:

Time prohibits my detailing Belloc’s revolution in English historical writing. Suffice it to say — and this is said formally and altogether without rhetorical emphasis — that one man, Hilaire Belloc, turned the whole writing of British history around. Since Belloc, nobody can get away with understanding the Reformation as the work of high‑minded souls bent on liberty and democracy, noble souls who brought England out of the darkness of Catholic superstition and medieval obscurantism. Others footnoted Belloc and traded on his vision. They did well in doing so, but the vision was his — as was the persecution of silence that followed on his work.

We have benefitted so much from Belloc's "revolution in English historical writing" that we perhaps take it for granted now.

I disagree with Father Lucie-Smith: Belloc is not best forgotten!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Supreme Head of the Church of England Abdicates in 1936

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of King Edward VIII's abdication, as Once I Was a Clever Boy reminded us:

Seventy five years ago today there occured the abdication of King Edward VIII. At the time it was a profound shock to Britain and her Empire, and remains a subject of fascination, and an event with a continuing legacy for the monarchy.

Both Crown and subjects were fortunate in that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were to prove so faithful and conscientious in the exercise of kingship, and to have transmitted that tradition to the Queen and through her to the next generations.

It is interesting that the current heir to the throne in England is in exactly the same position as Edward VIII was--married to a divorced woman with a surviving husband (Charles, the Prince of Wales was divorced from Diana before her death, of course). In the 1930's it was thought impossible for the Defender of the Faith and the Supreme Head of the Church of England to be married to a divorcee (TWICE divorced in the case of Wallis Simpson, in fact), but now it is no obstacle.