28 August 2016

(2) The Magical Magisterium: now you see it, now you don't

I would like to put the argument of my first piece with the above title a trifle more crudely, just to prove that I am as adept as the next man at smelling of the sheep. 'Demotic' is my middle name.

As we have seen, we now have a situation in which a Pope, or an Episcopal Conference, can apparently disregard and treat with contempt what a Pope taught or enacted as little as seven (or nine) years previously. Let us explore the implications of this. Are you sitting comfortably?

Suppose you have a Church which claims a Magisterium, a Teaching Authority which (it says) possesses a divine guarantee. Now ... be realistic. Such a body might, if sufficiently dishonest, be able to get away with unobtrusively ditching some unwanted doctrine in a few centuries. Only dusty old pedants might notice. What I am suggesting is that such a Church will find it much, much less easy to get away unnoticed with ditching a dogma in less than a decade. People remember; people notice ... people who accepted the earlier teaching and have a problem with the change will notice it; and so will the people who disagreed with the original formulation and are now cock-a-hoop about the fact that our wonderful new pope Francis IV has just dumped it. The change will be obvious to both sides.

What is going on now is, in my view, gravely worrying, for the following reason. The whole plausibility of the Papal Magisterium, and of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, is being severely undermined. Perhaps, already has been.

Suppose this pope, or any pope hereafter, puts out some, any, piece of teaching. Any Catholic will have every right to ask a question somewhat along these lines:

"Thank you very much indeed, Holy Father. Most interesting. Lovely stuff. Now ... can you just clarify a detail ... that teaching you've just given us ... when is its use-by date? Is it one of the cut-price Seven Year Dogmas favoured by the English bishops, or one of your own much more durable Nine Year Jobs?"

So when ... for example ... will Laudato si get to the seven-year expiry date which the CBCEW has with such sophistication imposed on a magisterial enactment of Benedict XVI? By my calculation, on 24 May, 2022. Then we shall all be able to heave a great sigh of relief and happily get back to the agreeable occupation of trashing "the Common Home".

But stay: what's so Magical about seven years? Surely the CBCEW will not want to be reported to Bergoglio as being Inflexible and lacking in Mercy? I'm sure its members all have salami slicers in their kitchens. Why not five years? Three? One? Or ... yes ... surely, "Six Months" has a rather lovely flavour to it?

So perhaps Laudato si expired on November 24 2015? Or will you accuse me of irrationally fetichising the concept of Six Months? "You idiot, three months is more than long enough", I hear you all noisily cry. I "fess up", as the young people say. I have not a leg to stand on. Perhaps, just for bureaucratic neatness, we should assume that a papal teaching enjoys validity between the date of its official promulgation, and the date when its text is released.

To be, just for a moment, dead serious: I very much fear (1) lest this pontificate go down in history as the occasion when Pope Francis I cut off the magisterial branch he was sitting on; and  
(2) that it may be very much more difficult for a future pope to glue the branch back onto the tree.

We did once see, in Ireland, a man demolishing a wall by standing on top of it and whacking it with a crowbar. Happy days. Happy country.

Deo volente, this piece will continue with two more sections.

27 August 2016

Ordinariates and Thompson

A reader has asked my comments on a recent Catholic Herald article by Damian Thompson. The notes which follow are, of course, purely and entirely my own private opinions.

DT, poor poppet, rarely gets things quite right. Hostility towards the Ordinariate is by no means anything like universal among the CBCEW. Quite the opposite. I have experienced only kindness and generosity from Crispian Hollis and Philip Egan, successive bishops of the diocese in which I geographically reside. Bishop Egan is a most distinguished and orthodox bishop who is exercising a very fine teaching ministry and is admired as a pastor by his laypeople and clergy alike. I consider it a piece of great good fortune to be living within his jurisdiction, even though he is not my bishop; and (from what I hear) there are not a few benevolent Catholic bishops around.

Nor is DT anywhere near being right in suggesting that the Ordinariate is about to fade away. The enthusiasm for it, and the sheer joie de vivre at our meetings, are almost palpable. It is true that one or two priests have "gone native" and submerged themselves into the Diocesan Churches, but this is not our major problem. Lack of money, of course, is. We had, as Anglicans, built up a number of quite wealthy organisations in our 150 years, but some 'continuing Anglo-Catholics' were so unkeen to see any of this shared out between them and us that they went to the Charity Commissioners. I can hardly deny that our poverty holds us back. It makes us, and our Ordinary, rather ... er ... beholden ...

But we do have a splendid organisation of Friends of the Ordinariate, which helps us in financial and other ways. Catholics sympathetic to our Ordinariate vocation to promote vernacular but highly traditional and beautiful worship, could stand with us by joining with or contributing to the Friends.

One reason why we in the Ordinariate are admittedly a bit shorter on laity than we would like to be is the policy of the Church of England, of never allowing us to take a church with us or even to share a church with a 'continuing' congregation. Anglican layfolk are extremely attached to their church buildings, which very often embody the endearing evidences of the struggles of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. One C of E bishop allegedly said "I'd rather see one of my churches bulldozed than let the Ordinariate have it [or even share it]"; which may be a very natural episcopal attitude in fallen, human terms, but it would have been Nice to see some evidences of Christianity and of grace among the Anglican Episcopate. Of our two churches, one came our way because the C of E had already got rid of it into secular hands; the other, because some Methodists, anxious that their chapel should remain in Christian use, with a generosity of mind which should shame the Anglican episcopate sold it to our local Group on reasonable terms.

I might add that the Anglican Use Church of our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio gives a splendid example of what can be done by a truly dynamic pastor. By now, only a minority of Fr Phillips' congregation have 'Anglican Previous'. But his numerous Masses and his very fine school are packed. It is quite an experience to hear so many Hispanic voices getting their mouths round Cranmer's Tudor English!

One reason why we lack a little (but not very much) of our original sense of impetus is an unwillingness somewhere in the Catholic system to make it easy for Anglican clergy to transit into the Ordinariate. I know quite a number of priests who had always planned, when they qualified for their full C of E pension (at 65ish), to be able to offer themselves for ministry full-time in the Catholic Church for no more recompense than a rent-free presbytery. The guidelines for their admission to the Ordinariate presbyterate seem to me, as far as I understand them, a bit ungenerous. One almost wonders if there might not be Catholic bishops who would rather see one of their churches bulldozed that to let Ordinariate Anglicans staff and maintain it! One hears quite often, or so it seems, of Catholic diocesans planning to amalgamate parishes and close churches. But, properly managed, there could have been an available pool of experienced pastors willing to help out and thus keep the churches open. It is not quite too late, even now, to adopt such a policy. We could call it the Flood Gates Initiative.

But poor old DT did get it dead right at one point. Not that his words represent Rocket Science: even I with my very modest intellect have often advocated this on my blog. I refer to the releasing of the Ordinariate Mass for every priest who wished to use it. That would be a tremendous leap forward in the Church's Mission to the English people. An obvious way of doing this would be to empower our Ordinary to grant faculties to Diocesan Clergy to celebrate our Mass for their people. Again, however, this matter is not entirely in our hands. Some Catholic bishops might be less keen than others. Who knows. 

But it is lawful already for a Catholic priest who is asked by members of the Ordinariate (who lack an available Ordinariate priest) to celebrate our Mass to do so, without any special faculties. Perhaps local on-the-ground initiatives are called for.

26 August 2016

(1) The Magical Magisterium: now you see it, now you don't

Mine is a nation which has produced some magnificently Eminent Magicians. The great Tommy Cooper, and the recently deceased Paul Daniels, spring to mind. But neither of them was ever created a Cardinal Bishop, Presbyter, or Deacon, of the Holy Roman Church. Yet each of them was a masterly exponent of the the principle which, apparently, now animates some our most senior cardinals: Now you see it, now you don't. The Magisterium pops up, and then as rapidly gets its head down again. One moment, the rabbit is in full view of the audience. The next, it is nowhere to be seen. "Magisterium? What Magisterium?" cries the Magician, carefully adjusting his zucchetto. "I think you must have been imagining it".

Let me explain what I mean by giving two examples.
(1) In 2007, Benedict XVI restated (Sacramentum Caritatis para.29) the immemorial praxis of the Church, based upon the ipsissima verba Domini, articulated in successive magisterial documents, of declining to offer Holy Communion to unrepentant adulterers, i.e. "remarried" divorcees. But in 2016, nine years later, Francis published Amoris laetitia, which has been interpreted by many, both friends and critics, as opening a door to modification of that praxis; or as "generating processes" which must inevitably lead to its replacement.
(2) In 2008, Benedict XVI introduced into the Extraordinary Form Liturgy a revised Prayer for the Jews (based upon Roman 11:25-26), doing so explicitly so as to resolve the controversies involving earlier forms of that Prayer. This is of significance because of the intimate connection between the Lex orandi and the Lex credendi. Indeed, both those who stand by Pope Benedict, and those who now collaborate to rubbish his pontificate, may be said to agree on the profound importance of this question (otherwise they wouldn't keep on about it, would they?). Yet, in 2015, the English Bishops asked a Vatican sub-committee to "review" what a Roman Pontiff had enacted only seven years before. An accompanying document made clear that "review" meant "change".

Any ecclesiology which can be adduced to give support to a situation in which, seven or even nine years after the act, a magisterial pronouncement or enactment of a Roman Pontiff, expressive of Scripture and of Apostolic Tradition, can be treated as so much disposable garbage, now you see it, now you don't, is an ecclesiology which I, for one, repudiate from the bottom of my heart. And will continue to repudiate as widely and with as much energy as my advancing years allow me.

Some people tell me that the Graf von Schoenborn is a man of immense and winning personal charm. I can only say that when he gave that sweetly shifty smile and in effect told a questioner at the News Conference introducing Amoris laetitia "Well, dear, it's all about development, don'tya know", I found myself instantly convinced that I would not buy a second-hand can of baked beans from a man like that.

To be continued.

25 August 2016

The Roman Rite of 1965

In 1965 two liturgical texts appeared and were imposed by authority. It was ordered that they be incorporated in the Roman Missal and faithfully observed "ab omnibus".

The first was an Ordo Missae. It was a very lightly revised Order, which nobody could criticise as belonging to a hermeneutic of total rupture. Its 'organic' changes were, mainly, the elimination of the psalm Judica (which was in any case not invariably said in the earlier rite) and of the Last Gospel (which also already had its rubrical elements of instability). The Doxology of the Canon and the Libera nos were to be said or sung aloud. Corpus Christ became the form at the administration of Holy Communion to the people - a rite which now became integral to the Order of Mass instead of an occasional appendage. Optionally, the Liturgy of the Word could be done at the sedilia.

Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre himself contentedly used this revised Order of Mass for some years, and only reverted to the books of 1962 in the mid 1970s when it had become clear what a disastrous rupture had been introduced. Indeed, there was a decade or so during which priestly celebrants at Econe differed slightly among themselves as to how they offered the Old Mass.

I have two suggestions to adumbrate. (1) A few weeks later, Rome issued an Order for Concelebration to go with the revised Order of Mass. That rite of Concelebration presupposed the substantially unspoiled Old Rite of Mass. The concelebrants were to wear all their vestments - including the maniple. They were recommended to hold a paten under the Host after receiving it. But I find most interesting the features of this rite which were forgotten when the Novus Ordo, and its associated rite of Concelebration, were authorised. The 1965 rubrics were very concerned about the numbers of concelebrants (Bad Marini's book gives background to this particular worry). The bishop was ordered to keep an eye on this. The controlling principle was to be that all the concelebrants be able to stand around the altar, even though each one might not be able directly to touch it. This would exclude the monster concelebrations which have become fashionable, and which are so profoundly unedifying.

The rite also repeated the Conciliar provision that every priest retains an almost absolute right to say his own separate Mass.

It has, I know, been suggested that this Rite of Concelebration is still legally available to accompany the Traditional Mass. You need to imagine a procession of priests, not in 'concelebration chasubles' but respectable chasubles ... and maniples ... and birettas ... processing up the Church, perhaps holding in their hands before their breasts the patens they will be using. Vessels for the purification of their fingers will need to be provided ...

It seems to me that we traditionalists ought to be open to proper 'organic' development of the Liturgy. At the moment, in the RC Church, traditionalists are naturally so wounded by the traumata of the last 40 years that they need the stability of the 1962 rite in its unmuckedaboutwith state. That is natural.  But in principle, Traditionalism is damaged by being turned into Fundamentalism. Liturgy has always - organically - developed, and so, paradoxically, this mutability is part of Tradition. Ultimately, we are all going to have to free ourselves from unnecessary hangups and a fetich for the rite of some particular year. After all, what is so splendid about 1962? In my view, the usages in place before the Pontificate of Pius XII began would be distinctly preferable to the maimed usages of 1962.

And in my opinion, a 'traditional' mindset would restrict Concelebration to the Chrism Mass, Ordinations, the Pontifical celebration of the Easter Vigil, and perhaps when the Bishop comes on Visitation; in other words, occasions when the summus sacerdos offers the August Sacrifice in intimate union with his presbyterium and thus manifests the unity of of the sacerdotium. And it would insist on Concelebration being done as described in 1965. And make clear that daily celebration is the norm for each priest each day.

And (2) ... much as I love High Mass, I think there could be a place for Mass Sung by a Priest and a Deacon. Who would lose anything if the rubrics for such a liturgy were devised and authorised?

If people comment angrily to the effect that Concelebration is in itself objectionable and unCatholic, I shall repeat  ... yet again ... one or both of my two old series about the teaching and practice of the popes from Innocent III (d 1216) to Benedict XIV (d 1758). You have been warned!

24 August 2016

S Bartholomew's Day

The Day of the Great Ejection, in 1662, of those two or three thousand Protestant Ministers who would not accept Sacerdotal Ordination by a Bishop in the Church of England; a day also to remember because of the concomitant 'sacerdotalising' changes to her rites of Ordination. This initiated an era only ended by the unhappy 'Porvoo Agreement' in which the Church of England herself formally declared, as Leo XIII had declared a century earlier, that her Orders were identical with those of Continental Protestantism (1995).

Granting the views expressed by Dermot MacCulloch about the Protestant character of the Elizabethan Reformation, should we see S Bartholomew's Day as the moment when the Church of England definitively and formally set out upon a course distinguishing herself from Common Protestantism? A course upon which she remained until the events of last two or three decades concluded it (Women priests, Porvoo, Anglican-Methodist Covenant, Women Bishops).

August 24 1662: one of a number of significant steps in the long journey from Elizabeth Tudor's coup d'etat to Benedict XVI's Ordinariate.

Dies calculo notandus.

23 August 2016

A Model Diocesan Bishop

It would be interesting to know exactly what the Dean and Chapter of Exeter had heard about their new bishop in August 1327. They certainly knew that he had been 'supplied' by the Holy See in place of the man they had themselves elected and whom the King had already confirmed. Presumably they knew he was a favourite of Pope John XXII. I suspect they had also heard that he was a micromanager, because they immediately put in hand the creation of a new Cathedral inventory.

John de Grandisson (pronounced Grahns'n), member of a top-flight international family, certainly turned out to be a man who devoted scrupulous attention, and considerable funds, to worship. A decade or two ago, more than six centuries and one 'reformation' after his death, he still merited an entire section on himself in a major London exhibition of Gothic art ... and some vestments with his arms embroidered on them still repose in a sacristy in ... the Azores! After his enthronement (which as a devotee of the Mater Misericordiae he fixed for the Octave Day of the Assumption in 1328; he decreed that the day should be a top-ranking feast for ever) his first decree endeavoured to raise the level of devotion among the unreformed rabble of Cathedral clergy by granting ample indulgences to those who devoutly attended choir and bowed their heads at the Names of Jesus and Mary. (It didn't work; hearing a few weeks later that the junior clergy were still behaving like naughty third-formers, he sent the Dean a stinker: 'Someone has failed to take measures ...').

As the first of his many benefactions, he gave a sumptuous monstrance to the Cathedral so that Corpus Christi, recently (yes; don't believe all that Transiturus stuff) instituted by John XXII, could be properly observed with a procession. He began his great masterpiece, the Ordinale Exoniense, codifying and modernising the usages of his Cathedral (not, as some Art Historian nutter has written, of the Diocese; in a time of manuscript altar-books the concept of Diocesan Regulations is anachronistic). It was probably he who suppressed some dreadful old lyrics which had previously been sung in the Exeter Procession of Relics: Grandisson preferred the new cult of the Blessed Sacrament (and devotion to our Lady) to tall tales about dubious miracles performed by obscure relics. He dealt expeditiously with a false claim of a miracle, and suppressed a phony shrine of our Lady (a bit like a medieval Medjugorje?) which was in effect a scheme for fortune-tellers to exploit the gullible. We have a couple of pages from a Mary Missal, for daily use in the Lady Chapel either at Exeter or at his collegiate foundation at Ottery, in which the bishop in his own handwriting has painstakingly corrected scribal errors. He completed the building of his Cathedral in great splendour. He went after a Cornish heretic who, as heretics sometimes do, had stolen a Host specifically in order to commit sacrilege. He sent his own private army to prevent the Primate of All England, his own metropolitan Archbishop, from entering Exeter on Visitation. He complained to his Patron in Avignon about the Cornish weather. But he did his duty even in the wind-swept extremities of the peninsula, consecrating altars and composing conflicts and seeing to it that in Cornubiphone parishes the clergy could preach in Cornish.

Even though he did not die at this time of the year, he ordered that his obit be kept on the day after the Octave of the Assumption; that is, today. I can't think of a more suitable day.

He was a devout old bully and a most magnificently cosmopolitan pontiff and a gigantic credit to the much-maligned, unjustly maligned, Avignon papacy. What a mercy that a wise Providence in its eternal decrees did not call upon him to exercise his episcopal ministry in the Age of Bishops' Conferences; I can't imagine him ... er ... sitting quietly at a table ... and ... er ...

I said Mass for him this morning. They don't make them like him nowadays.

Cuius animae intercedente Matre Misericordiae propitietur Deus.

22 August 2016

Adrian Fortescue

A kind friend has alerted me to a fine piece on the blog Eastern Christian Books (August 12), with regard to the use and overuse of the Petrine munus docendi. It ends with a good quote from Adrian Fortescue.

Adam deVille, unlike some people, is never boring and never talks nonsense.

We should never forget that there are some very level-headed chaps over there in the Byzantine Rite sui iuris Churches. Perhaps, after Cardinal Sarah, it will be time for a Byzantine-rite pope. It would be quite like being back in the first millennium, wouldn't it, to be having African and Greek popes again.

I must read that blog more regularly.

Eirene pasin.

Taking leave

As we conclude the old Octave of the Assumption - I like the old Byzantine habit of "taking leave" of great festivals - I invite readers to engage with the question of what we are celebrating today ... and to begin by tracing the history of one particular hymn.

The post-conciliar revisers, in their first draft of the Hymnarium, proposed to offer a ninth century hymn, O quam glorifica, on Assumption day. It did not make it to the final cut, but it does appear in the new Office Book on August 22, the old Octave day, to which the 'reformers' transferred the Feast of Mary, Queen (at the same time ejecting the Immaculate Heart from that day onto the Saturday after the Sacred Heart). Interestingly, that hymn was, in the first millennium, a Proper hymn for the Assumption.

I do rather feel that combining the Queenship of Mary with her Octave day does have a lot to be said for it. Long before gentlemen in liturgy offices in Rome started shifting Marian feasts around like counters on a Ludo board, Dom Gueranger saw the Octave day of the Assumption in terms of our Lady's Queenship. I hope I am not too puritanical about the Marian frenzy of the pontificate of Pius XII - that sort of thing is rather fun from time to time - but his liturgists never had an over-all, holistic look at the arrangement of the new feasts he showered upon the calendar. Even if Vatican II had never happened, a bit of sorting and sifting would have been in order in the next pontificate. 

They might have decided to make the old feast pro [multis] aliquibus locis of our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces, on May 31, a Feast of the Universal Church. And to have left the Visitation where they found it. And to have adopted a neat eighteenth century idea of putting the Most Pure [aka Immaculate] Heart of Mary onto the Saturday after the Sacred Heart.

That would have been an organic and gradual evolution of the data emerging from the 'baroque' period of the history of the Calendar.

21 August 2016

Mostly Philology

~ For some months now, I have noticed this phenomenon: some people being interviewed by journalists begin their every reply with the word "So ... ". (Rather as, for years, some of us began every answer to a question with "Well, ... er ...".)

Does anybody have any ideas about how, why, where, this arose?

I have never noticed any analogous changes in the use of particles in the Attic Greek of different periods. Have you?

~ I rather think that the more extreme "Yer-knowers" are now an aging minority. Yes? No?

~ "I was like" meaning "I said" still seems to me as common as ever among the bimboid classes to whose noisily confidential exchanges I hungrily listen as I sit in my no 35 'bus into Oxford's City Centre. Have you monitored this usage recently?

~ One of our politicians claimed that those now flocking into our Labour Party are Trotskyites. An opponent ridiculed this by saying "Most of the people I saw there were grandfathers and grandmothers". At which end might one begin an analysis of this exchange?

~ One day recently, the main News item was the "issue" of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women being so tremendously difficult to persuade to "enter the workplace". The very next day, the main item was the "issue" of flirting, stroking, groping, touching-up, et huius generis alia, in places where men and women work together. I have heard no member of the Commentariate suggesting that there might, even hypothetically, be any relationship immediate or even mediated between these two "issues". Have you?

~ Do you think "issues" are here to stay, or will they soon be circumvented by a new circumlocution?

My theory about "issues" is that the previous term, "problems", acquired a bad reputation because of aggressive usages such as "I'm a murderer and an embezzler ... (sticking his chin out) ... do you have problems with that?" Thus "problems" became things that it was increasingly difficult to admit to having, and a neutral or non-loaded term was required. Evidence for, evidence against this hypothesis?

20 August 2016

FR LOMBARDI (updated)

Is there any truth in the rumour that vast log-jams built up in S Peter's yesterday among the people queuing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation as Fr Lombardi, on relinquishing his PR appointment in the service  of the Holy Father, made a General Confession?

UPDATE

On reflexion, perhaps unkind. Presumably Fr L is actually a human being with his foibles, his besetting temptations, his own struggles to let Grace dominate his life, just as we all are. But he has been forced by his job volens nolens to create for himself a persona, that of somebody who repeatedly pops out automatically at the pressing of a button to say "When the HF said X, what, of course, he really meant was non-X". This has, I am afraid, become quite funny, and it is not entirely our fault that it has. It was very much this comic persona, the circus clown, that I meant to mock, rather than a real existent Christian Priest, almost certainly a better one than I am, called Federico.

Dawkins and Bugnini are another couple who, I feel, are pretty well metamorphosed into their personae. Possibly also the Holy Father himself, with his "Butterflies" and his "Neo-Pelagian Narcissists" and (a crude, offensive, and inaccurate parody) his "Pharisees". Possibly (a maioribus ad minimum iam descendo) even I ... er ...  

19 August 2016

Rubrical specialists out there ...

The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae says that Religious Orders may use their propriis libris liturgicis anno 1962 vigentibus. Does anybody know whether such books, in, for example, the Dominican or Franciscan or Cistercian or Carmelite Rites, were "kept up to date" (perhaps by an Authority within each Order?) in accordance with the general "reforms" of Roman Rite in the 1950s?

I have in mind things like the decimation of Vigils and Octaves ... the insertion of feasts like S J the Workman (May 1) and BVM Queen (May 31) ... the replacement of Gaudeamus with Signum magnum ...

18 August 2016

Assumpta est

A recent author of a comment on this blog very reasonably argued that Pius XII, if we perform a holistic reading of Munificentissimus Deus and apply a hermeneutic of Continuity, actually does teach that our blessed Lady died. The very same day, I received an intelligent email from a friend who found it repugnant to imagine that she could have been dead, even for a moment. One can, indeed, argue that the restraint of the actual Definition is laudable for not imposing beyond what is necessary upon either 'side'. Fair enough. I am no Torquemada.

But I would add the following: the lex orandi should help us to constitute the lex credendi (I am not too sure what I think about a proposal of Pius XII that this venerable tag operates both ways round). And this suggests to me a massive bias towards the immemorial assumptions of the common ancient traditions of East and West as found in their liturgies. And why should this symphonesis be a problem rather than a source of joy?

And I will repeat a point I made originally: that, as a result of the apophaticism of the Definition, the originally common traditions of East and West have de facto disappeared from the consciousness of the West. Can this really be a matter for denial? It is easy to get the impression that the Western Church regards the old apocryphal stories of the death, burial, and Assumption of our Lady with suspicion; as being rather dubious and 'medieval' and politically incorrect 'folk religion'. Indeed, they are not canonical Scripture. But our ignorance of them means that we can see a medieval alabaster, or mural, of the Assumption - or a Byzantine ikon of the Dormition - and not have the faintest idea what on earth they are all about. Why is that man shown on the Ikon with his hands chopped off? Why did the priest after Mass/Liturgy this morning bless and give flowers to the congregation?

I do not think it was wrong of me to discern something (in Ratzingerian terms) of a Rupture in Pius XII's Definition. Rather like those Conciliar formulae which were designed to be interpreted in different ways by different people! Rather like a certain recent Apostolic Exhortation which quoted Familiaris consortio ... and missed out half the paragraph! This sort of game has become all too tempting to the modern papal machine.

But, even if I was wrong, I suggest that we revisit these stories, even if only to enrich our capacities for perception and comprehension in the field of Christian archaeology and Art History!!

SO ... If you, happily, possess a pre-1950s Breviary, you could have a look at the Mattins readings for today, the IVth Day within the Octave of the Assumption. Otherwise, google your way to (pseudo-)Joseph of Arimathea The Passing of the Blessed Virgin Mary.