This is being written on an iPad Mini screen, which makes writing anything beyond small gobbets a penitential work. But perhaps life could do with some more penance. Anyway, prepare for typos while I prepare for slings and arrows.
At present I am staying at the small but fervent Monastère St Benoît, in the steamy hills beyond St Tropez, and over the past week uncomfortably hot for one now acclimatised to the gentle summers of England. Of the many virtues of this house, apart from its excellent liturgical life, can be numbered its excellent liturgical library and the encyclopaedic liturgical knowledge of the prior, Dom Alcuin Reid. Both have enabled me to make some progress in preparing for a research proposal.
When we read poetry, we turn down argument and crank up perception. That’s why theology in poetry—such as hymnody—can be so captivating, and articulate things in a way that is à point. This little nugget from Les Murray (†) strikes me in such a way:
THE KNOCKDOWN QUESTION
Why does God not spare the innocent?
The answer to that is not in the same world as the question so you would shrink from me in terror if I could answer it.
Les Murray, from “Poems the Size of Photographs” (2002)
On 29 April this year Les Murray (b. 1938) died. He was the nearest Australia had to a poet Laureate. He was not from a privileged background, though neither was he raised amidst abject poverty. He was born and grew up on the rural north coast of New South Wales, not too far from Taree, in a district with the delightful Australian name of Bunyah. He was a countryman and never an urban sophisticate. His characteristic physical bulk emerged while he was at school, making this time not wholly happy for him. The death of his mother after a miscarriage when he was 12 was no doubt a trauma that marked him. He was a republican, but no one is perfect; he was not obnoxious about it, and apparently delighted the Queen when he received from her hand the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1999. He was an idealist not an ideologue. He promoted the rights of the indigenous population in Australia before it was chic, or “woke,” to do so. Having been prone to depression, the black dog left him after he endured a coma of three weeks resulting from a tumour on his liver.
One of the leitmotifs of the post-conciliar liturgical reform, present in the conciliar decree to be sure, is active participation. Unheard of before, it is a peculiarly twentieth century obsession. Claiming inspiration from St Pius X (though not as convincingly as claimed if one looks carefully at what he wrote in its context in Tra le sollicitudini), within the Liturgical Movement of the twentieth century there developed an ever more elaborated and extended advocacy for the congregation’s “active participation” in the liturgy. The congregation must be forced—not be allowed—to be mere bystanders or spectators of the liturgy, nor should more solemn liturgies become like concerts and the congregation reduced to an audience.
But why not a concert? Why the opprobrium for a concert, and the congregation an audience?
IN THE COMMENTS of the post a few days back regarding the 50th anniversary of the new Mass, Richard makes some searching and coherent observations which merit pursuing. Rather than any answer to them being lost in the combox, it seems better to make my brief response to them a post in itself. You may want to read Richard’s comment first.
Richard’s reflections mirror those I elided into the word “curiously,” which is certainly not synonymous with “inexplicably.” I think the lack of mainstream recognition of the anniversary of the new Mass is certainly capable of some tentative explanation. Continue reading “Pursuing a Point”→
This year and next see some significant ecclesiastical half-centuries racked up. This year it is the encyclical Humanae Vitae‘s (HV) turn, and next year it is the turn of the Novus Ordo Missae (NOM)—the new Mass. There has been and will be much written on these milestone anniversaries, by many more qualified that this writer to comment. Rather than publish a parallel, and probably quite similar, commentary to theirs, it is intended here to offer a few contextual notes you might keep in mind as you read them. We need now to interrogate more searchingly and more insistently both what you read and hear, and our own current situation.
50-odd years on HV and NOM offer a study in both contrasts and congruities. What HV predicted of a contraceptive culture has been comprehensively fulfilled; the promised fruitfulness of liturgical reform has not. The sad accuracy of the one and the equally sad failure of the other share a common cause (among others): the turn to self as the standard of judgment and the focus of attention.
Above is a depressing little advisory from the current edition of The Week. It reads like something from a fantastically dystopian novel about the future from the 1950s or 60s. It is the sort of thing at which we would have cackled in derision on reading. Now it is reality; or rather, what passes for reality. Dystopian it most certainly is; self-destructive, indubitably.
The first reaction on reading of a man referring to himself as “they” was the memory of Mark 5:9. Yet it is disturbing on levels not quite so immediate to the mind.
Last week we celebrated the memorial of St Gertrude the Great, a Saxon nun of 13th-century of Helfta—a monastery which was a nursery of saints at the time. Thinking on things with a view to a homilette, what came to the fore was the nuptial mysticism of this great saint. Her intense devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whatever else it might be, should be seen as the logical development of her nuptial mysticism. Continue reading “Confronting the non-binary fallacy”→