Tuesday 31 January 2012

Rome and the SSPX: another fascinating news item

Many of you will have read the following, which appeared today on the Rorate Caeli blog:

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has accepted as valid the repudiation of schism of a former Orthodox priest accomplished by the Superior-General of the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX /SSPX), Bp. Bernard Fellay. Cardinal Levada also reportedly informed that the priest would have been named a domestic prelate in recognition of his former rank in the Orthodox Church. (News provided by the Polish district of the SSPX, translated by Laodicea). Rorate has been able to independently confirm this information. Archimandrite Athenagoras Bogoridi-Liven, a Bulgarian, is currently living in the monastery of Bellaigue, France, of Benedictines alligned with the SSPX.

This is really interesting. A great step for the formerly Eastern Orthodox priest, and may he be richly blessed. But to be received into Catholic communion by Bishop Fellay of the SSPX; and to have his reception accepted as valid by Rome; and to be named as a domestic prelate – which I think gives him the title of Monsignor, but I’m happy to be corrected on that point - is an extraordinary piece of news.

May I refer you to a post of mine from October 2010, entitled The SSPX: Vatican recognition de facto and ad hoc. This latest news seems to make a further intriguing contribution to the story of the SSPX . What next, I wonder?

Wednesday 25 January 2012

The settling-in process of the revised English Mass translation

I thought it might be useful to record the things I have noticed at Mass, now that the revised translation has been up and running in England and Wales for some months.

First of all, our parish priest. He has been very good, very committed to making a decent job of the revised Mass. All credit to him.

Most of the congregation seem to have got the hang of “And with your spirit”. The only instance of it that frequently trips me up is the one after Holy Communion, when I haven’t changed gear from saying my post-Communion prayers, and haven’t picked up my Mass book again. I find myself saying “And also … your spirit”. I’ll get used to it soon enough, I hope.

The Confiteor is, in one respect, a work in progress. Hardly any of the people strike their breast at the “through my fault”, except where I happen to be. Usually by the third strike, my neighbours on each side have joined in, which is interesting. This may be happening elsewhere among the congregation – little clusters of “strikers” – but I don’t look round to see what’s happening. In my peripheral vision, I don’t notice any movement.

During the Creed, and again this is only within my peripheral range of sight, very few heads are bowed at the Incarnation; but then, that was the case before the revision. However, I think the incidence of it has increased a little. There is one heroine who genuflects at this point, in the old style, which sets a wonderful example.

At the Offertory prayers, nearly everyone says “for our good and the good of all his Church”, except for me and a few others thinly scattered around the nave, who remember to insert the “holy”. Our “Church” then goes out into the silence. I feel a bit like Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army, standing to attention a couple of seconds behind the rest of the platoon. But perseverance is the thing; perhaps my neighbours who miss it this time will remember to say it next time. Slowly, slowly, it will spread.

The response to “Behold the Lamb of God” is definitely rather ragged. I think quite a lot of people still say “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you”; but at this point they seem to become conscious of the sound of confusion as the two translations diverge; and I think quite a few of them are back on track with “my soul shall be healed” by the end.

I wonder if these observations are fairly similar to those of my English-speaking readers. I suppose it depends on whether the priest decides to tackle what builders would call the "snagging" list, or relies on time to iron everything out.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Anonymity, with extra Anonymity

As far as I am concerned, Confession must not only be in a proper confessional with a screen between confessor and penitent, but it should also be without any possibility of recognising the penitent by his or her voice.

Hence the various outings I have made in recent years. A couple of times to the Birmingham Oratory, but it's two trains from here, followed by quite a long walk from Five Ways station. I haven't been there for four or five years.

Once to Birmingham's St Chad's Cathedral, where the then-incumbent, Archbishop Nichols, offered the Mass, and then disappeared into the confessional. I was a bit intimidated at the thought of confessing to him, but he was kindness itself.

Mostly, these days, to the grand Georgian church of St Mary-on-the-Quay, in Bristol. A hassle-free train journey through delightful countryside, to Brunel's great Temple Meads station, and a bus that runs every few minutes from the station forecourt to the church. Couldn't be easier.

The church appears to be staffed mainly by overseas priests: from the Philippines, I think, and from the Sub-Continent/Sri Lanka. The priests are very good, and always give words of encouragement and advice. Yesterday was a little different: an Irish priest, also very good and kind, with his own style of guidance. All most edifying.

Confessions take place during the daily half-hour of Solemn Exposition, and this is followed by a lunchtime Mass at 12.15, ideal for the local office-workers. Naturally there are quite a few pensioners in the congregation, but yesterday I particularly noticed that there were a number of young and youngish men. I thought that was really impressive. And for the first time I saw a woman wearing a mantilla. I wore a headscarf, and this is another of those things I rather like: when I am in a strange church in a different town, I don't feel at all embarrassed about covering my head. There's a feeling of being able to express one's devotion freely; none of this fear of being thought to be posing as an ├╝ber-Catholic.

Images: Confessional, from Fr Z's blog; St Mary's, from geograph.org.uk. Both via Google Images.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Financial Support for the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

The Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has not spent the £1 million transferred to it from the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament.

The full story is in The Church Times, and has been posted here, on the Ordinariate Portal blog.

In eternal terms, I think the Good Lord will provide the Ordinariate’s spiritual lifeblood. But a more prosaic form of lifeblood is derived from the financial support of its members and well-wishers. However modest each person’s donation may be, even a small amount each month, multiplied by as many donors as possible, will make a substantial contribution to the fruitfulness of the Ordinariate’s ministry.

Here are the links to the donation pages of the Ordinariate, and of the Friends of the Ordinariate. Donations can be made to either or both. I received the following explanation as to the difference between the two, in reply to an enquiry I made to the Friends:

“The difference of the two links is that the Ordinariate is for the support of the clergy for everyday expenses. The Friends Charity will give to the Ordinariate any projects it wants to do.”

Picture from catholicnews.org.uk via Google Images

Friday 13 January 2012

“Why is Mary making that long journey with Joseph, and in her condition too?”

I have sometimes wondered what Mary’s female relations thought of Joseph for taking Mary with him on the long and arduous slog from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They were experienced enough to have a good idea of the advanced stage she had reached in her pregnancy. But I can imagine her keeping everything within her heart, as she is described as doing on other occasions; and as many of us know, women vary somewhat in their appearance at any given stage of pregnancy. There may thus have been some slight scope for uncertainty. Still, they must have been surprised, and probably worried, at the news that one or both of the couple were determined not to be parted at such a time.

We are told tantalisingly little about things that are not really important to us in the great scheme of the Incarnation. We can however consider those parts of the story that we are told, and can at least speculate, with faithfulness and within reason.

I am assuming that Mary and Joseph shared with one another all those words of the Angel which they considered themselves at liberty to share. Is that a reasonable assumption?

Did the Angel direct Joseph and/or Mary to go to Bethlehem so that the Anointed One would be born there, in order to fulfil the Scriptures?* There is no record of such a command in the Birth accounts of Matthew or of Luke.

I think it is very likely that they both knew about the Biblical prophecy. Did one or both of them decide, without the Angel’s guidance, that this was what they should do? I’m not sure about that. They knew they were the handmaid and the servant of the Lord; they may have simply waited for further guidance, for a clear pointer as to what they should do.

If this was in fact the course of action - of patient, expectant inaction - which they felt to be the right one, they certainly received that clear pointer when the Emperor’s edict was issued, requiring Joseph to travel to Bethlehem to be enrolled for the purposes of taxation.

Here is another of those fascinating glimpses we receive into the status of St Joseph. I published a post a little while ago drawing attention to his notable ancestry, in addition to his descent from King David. He must surely have held a position of some seniority in his extended family, that it should be necessary for him to be present in person in his ancestral town, or his own hometown, of Bethlehem.

But the timing of the journey was cutting it very fine. Did Mary’s family try to dissuade Joseph from taking Mary with him? I can see a picture in my mind, of Mary virtually coming to the rescue of Joseph, with words of calm determination that they would not be parted.

There is something else that emerges, I think, when one considers these events, and the extraordinary path along which Mary and Joseph’s special promises to one another were to lead them. It is the beautiful spirit of unity between them. To use a modern expression, they were soulmates; to a degree far beyond that which any other married couple had ever been or would be.

*Matthew 2:6, after Micah 5:2

Picture "Journey to Bethlehem" by Joseph Brickey, from sherriejohnson.blogspot.com, via Google Images

Thursday 12 January 2012

St Paul's Epistles in Chronological Sequence

After many years of reading the Jerusalem Bible, I bought the Catholic Revised Standard Version a few years ago. I wondered if the different translation would refresh my reading of Scripture. It certainly has, and I prefer it.

There is however one very useful aspect to my Jerusalem Bible. It is the standard edition, and it contains detailed introductions to particular groups of Books.

This post concerns the Letters of St Paul. I thought you might find it interesting to compare the Letters as printed in the Bible, with the order in which they were actually written, according to the introduction in the Jerusalem Bible. It may be, of course, that biblical scholarship has moved on in this respect since the JB was published in 1966. If so, I’m happy to be corrected on the dates.

The standard Biblical sequence is:

1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy

The Letters arranged by year are:

50-51: 1 and 2 Thessalonians
56-57: Philippians
57: 1 and 2 Corinthians
57-58: Galatians and Romans
61-63: Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon
65: 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy
67: Hebrews

I like to read the Letters in chronological sequence. I haven't made an in-depth study of them, and so I can’t put my finger on particular instances where it makes a difference, but I think there’s a sense of progression in them as the years go by. It seems to be worth doing, as an exercise if for no other reason.

Picture from thebloggingbrother.blogspot.com via Google Images

Wednesday 11 January 2012

When Mary visited Elizabeth, did Joseph accompany her?

We know from Luke’s Gospel (1:39) that on being told by the Angel that her kinswoman Elizabeth has conceived a child in her old age, when everyone had thought her to be barren, “Mary arose and went with haste” to visit her.

So here we are, with Mary's sudden announcement that she wants to visit Elizabeth. Did she say why? She may not have felt herself authorised to reveal the reason. She is determined to set off at once on that long journey from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea.

She could not have travelled alone: that would surely have been unthinkable. Is it possible then that her betrothed husband Joseph took on the task of escorting her? And of returning at an agreed time to collect her and bring her back to Nazareth? It seems very probable to me.

If he did, it is likely that he witnessed some very strange things. He would have heard the extraordinary outburst from Elizabeth at the sound of Mary’s voice, and the outpouring of joy from his betrothed, echoing the words of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel. He would have discovered that Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah had unaccountably been struck dumb in the Temple. Upon returning to Judea to bring Mary home, he would have learnt about – and may even have witnessed – the sudden return of Zechariah's power of speech, on the occasion of his son John’s naming and circumcision, and his beautiful prophecy about his child’s destiny.

And then home, and back to earth with a terrible jolt for poor Joseph. If Mary and he had made these journeys together, everyone in Nazareth would assume that Joseph was the father of Mary’s child. Only she and he knew differently; and at this point he, to his great distress, knew nothing at all.

Picture from catholicmom.com via Google Images

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Some Thoughts on the Betrothal of Mary and Joseph (Part 2 of 2)

Following on from yesterday’s post, here are the betrothal references in Joseph’s story:

Matthew 1:18-25: "When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly.

"But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

"All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and His name shall be called Emmanuel”
(which means, God with us).

"When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son #; and he called His name Jesus.”

# I ought to include the footnote that appears in my Bible : “This means only that Joseph had nothing to do with the conception of Jesus. It implies nothing as to what happened afterward.”

Finally, here is a telling word from Luke 2:5. At the time of Jesus’s birth, the evangelist continues to describe Mary and Joseph as “betrothed”, yet Joseph had by this time clearly taken her to their married home. It appears to have been done quietly, without celebration; perhaps for the sake of discretion, since the pregnancy would naturally have led their family and neighbours to believe that they were already living as man and wife.

Which gives rise to another speculation or two. More to come tomorrow.

Picture from thesacredpage.com via Google Images

Monday 9 January 2012

Some Thoughts on the Betrothal of Mary and Joseph (Part 1 of 2)

I thought I would gather together all the Gospel references to the relationship of Mary and Joseph, and I’m glad I did.

But first, the Jewish Encyclopaedia has a fascinating article on betrothal. In addition to the interesting text, it contains a number of beautiful illustrations which are well worth seeing in their own right.

I’ve picked out the following words:

- Once they were betrothed, the couple “were considered as man and wife in all legal and religious aspects, except that of actual cohabitation.”

- Betrothal “is equivalent to an actual marriage and only to be dissolved by a formal divorce.”

- The period between betrothal and the formal hometaking (the completion of the marriage) was 12 months, or 30 days if either of the spouses had previously been widowed.

Set within this context, here are the Gospel references to Mary and Joseph’s relationship. First, Mary’s story.

Luke 1:27 describes Mary as “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.”

It is interesting and possibly significant that when the angel says in Luke 1:31, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus”, he does not say that it will happen straight away, or indeed when it will happen.

Perhaps this sheds some light on Mary’s response to the angel (Luke 1:34): “How can this be [or “how will this be”], since I have no husband?” It is strange that she says she has no husband, at a time when she and Joseph are already husband and wife “in all legal and religious aspects, except that of actual cohabitation”. It has always seemed unlikely to me that Mary would have waited until after the “hometaking" to tell Joseph about her vow of virginity. Bearing in mind the Church’s teaching on the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, it feels as if this text contains a hint of a special understanding between them, of a kind that makes it necessary for her to ask the means by which the Lord has willed her to bear a son.

This is a long post, so I have split it and will continue it tomorrow.

Picture from bookdrum.com via Google Images