Friday, 18 January 2019

Epiphany of the LORD...

Baptizatur Christus, et sanctificatur omnis mundus : et tribuit nobis remissionem peccatorum : aqua, et Spiritu omnes purificamur.

O, I wish I were in Ithaka for this. I saw a small island between Kefalonia and Ithaka on which was built, amidst the olive trees, a small chapel. Apparently on Theophany Even the Bishop comes thither from the mainland to bless the sea using the old Greek rite. I imagine once upon a time the Bishop of Rome blessed the Tiber in like fashion on the same day, using a similar rite; that is before the disruption of a false kalendar and the blessing of water meant something more than just a "sacramental."

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Closing down...

The CTS shop in Westminster is closing down. Just over a week ago I met up with a friend of mine for lunch and, as I hadn't been in town for a few months, decided to visit some old haunts. They had a 60% off sale so I availed myself of two books in "The Early Church Fathers" series, which, at about £25 per title, are rather expensive. It's sad because I'd been visiting that shop on and off for about 15 years. In fact, I vividly remember skipping sixth form college to do so! Passing over Blackheath on the 89 bus one morning some time between 2004 and 2006 I thought to myself "I can't be bothered with this to-day," and alighted at Lewisham and went into town and had a rather pleasant time reading through some of the books in their impressive collection (for a cramped shop). Another thing I remember about that shop was the statue (since given away) of Our Lady of Grace which I bought for £60. At the time I had a black bank card with HSBC. It was not a chip and pin card, neither was it a link card, it simply gave me access to a savings account (savings which I squandered, mostly on riotous living) from an HSBC bank. I had to leave the statue with the manager (who, at the time, was clean-shaven; unlike just over a week ago) and went off with my card to find a branch, and returned with the cash. These are silly things to recall but I also spent a good deal of time there (and spent a lot of money too) when I was at Heythrop, which is a period of my life which I miss terribly, so the shop's closing down has a kind of sentimental aspect to it because of its connexion with erstwhile unknown happiness. If it's still there, and you know it, I'd suggest you go and see what's left.

Thursday, 10 January 2019


I was in Marks & Spencers this afternoon and saw these.

Veganism has attained a fashion I had hitherto thought impossible outside of the gay community. Or is it that simple? It seems to me that as with any minority (they aren't always right), it's not a question of right or wrong (I strongly suspect that many professed vegans wear leather shoes), but who can shout the loudest and who can be the most self-righteous. Hence the fashion and prominence of what is really a very strange diet. Orthodox fasting rules are strictly vegan but the idea is that it is a real deprivation, to be relieved, in true seasonal balance, on great feasts such as Christmas which we are celebrating now. But to live life totally without meat, fish or dairy? It's not for me, and clearly not for most customers at Marks & Spencers.

It does seem strange that this alleged healthier diet, based on an ideological aversion to meat, should take so much inspiration from it. Here we see "No Chic'N Chunks,"  "No Pork Sausoyges," et al; presumably formed artificially from some kind of synthetic protein paste in imitation of actual chicken and pork. Why not stick to plain fruit, vegetables, nuts and lentils? The whole thing seems totally spurious to me.

As you can probably tell, I'm running low on inspiration for posts lately. I'm bored of saying this but I feel totally burned out and apathetic. I just don't care anymore.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Glory to God in the highest!

Merry Christmas! I wish you all the temporal and spiritual blessings in the Infant Christ on this most dear feast of His Birth. The text of Patriarch Kirill's Christmas message can be read here. In the meantime, one of my favourite carols sung by those that sing them best.

Troubling news from Istanbul but we all saw it coming. In the spirit of the feast I can only hope that Poroshenko, a first rate second rate man, is pleased with himself; he has successfully accomplished a new schism. As for Bartholomew, the willing instrument, I don't know what he's waiting for. It's easy enough for people to join the Church of Rome, but how do we know he hasn't already, all those years ago when he was studying at a Roman seminary? I would say that his heresy is a uniquely Roman one but there's an awful lot of racialist ideology in the mix too. I pray the Church of Constantinople finds someone better or Moscow might have to cut out the cancer before it infects the rest of the body.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

St Lucy of Syracuse...

To-day is the feast of St Lucy, the Virgin-Martyr of Syracuse (+304). I suppose you could say that her feast serves as a satellite for Christmass Day. During the Nativity fast we await with intense yearning and anticipation the coming of the Infant LORD as a weary people in darkness, like the ancient Hebrews, and in the cold and dark amidmost we venerate St Lucy, a symbol of light. It's a truly seasonal festival. It reminds me of this passage from The Lord of the Rings, itself a kind of satellite moment for what was to come between the setting out of the Fellowship (on 25th December) and the destruction of the Ring (on 25th March).
Frodo sighed and was asleep before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo's hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Dúath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope, for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep. (The Lord of the Rings, Book V, Chapter II).

Sunday, 2 December 2018

The Irish in England...

My grandmother lived in England for about 45 years but, despite her successful career as a theatrical costume maker, never really settled here. She would spend most summers in Ulster yet often complained that her reception there was cold. She said that her own brother Teddy once asked, on a visit to his home in Coleraine: "so when are you going back?" There was a sense that her having married an Englishman and having lived in England was a kind of failure. Then, towards the end of my grandfather's life, she more or less abandoned him and went to live with her friend Maureen Anderson in Letterkenny. My grandfather eventually relented and followed her, selling the family home and buying a new house in Ballybofey, but he died soon afterwards. She then settled permanently and came back to England only twice before her death in 2016. It's an interesting paradox for a family of Unionists; on the one hand there is the "closing of the gates" on 7th December, with No Surrender! the bywords of Britishness; and on the other a kind of chauvinistic attitude towards the English. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis' description of England and the English in Surprised by Joy. He says: "The strange English accents with which I was surrounded seemed like the voices of demons. But what was worst was the English landscape...I have made up the quarrel since; but at that moment I conceived a hatred for England which took many years to heal."

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Shades of Unionism...

Lord Carson at the signing of Ulster's "Solemn League and Covenant" in 1912. James Craig is standing to his left.

As indicated in the previous post, there is considerable variegation of opinion and affection within the Unionist community in Ulster. Eoin MacNeill argued in the famous (or infamous) November 1913 edition of An Claidheamh Soluis that of the triple alliance in the Ulster Unionist position, that is the Orange industrial workers (mainly Church of Ireland), the rural Presbyterian communities and the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy (represented by Lord Carson), only the latter were truly "unionist." The others were in essence home-rulers, even if they didn't know it. Lord Lansdowne famously said, in an impassioned speech against home rule: "we have Ireland and we mean to keep her." The Orangemen might have replied: "We are going to hold Ireland - of course, for your lordships." I also suspect that Parnell, who is a figure I revere, was instinctively conservative and that his passion for home rule was an attempt to maintain the Protestant Ascendancy in a devolved state - within the Empire. And of course on the other side of the spectrum there were a few nutcases who arose during the Troubles who were Ulster "nationalists;" purists in Ulster Vanguard or the UVF who wanted a four county province purged of Roman Catholics!

It may seem like splitting historic hairs but these distinctions tell us something about the nature of contemporary politics in Northern Ireland. If there was ever one thing that united the communities of Ulster: unionist, nationalist, Protestant and Roman Catholic, it was this: aversion to direct rule from Westminster. From Ian Paisley's "Save Ulster from Sodomy" campaign in the early 1980's to the DUP's present posturing about Brexit, it's an interesting question to ponder: are these people truly loyal to Britain? Or is Britain just a buzz word; a by-product of identification? Whatever the case may actually be, it will be interesting to see how the Loyalists will fare in a post-Brexit Northern Ireland, whatever the border situation might be. Perhaps it will be a case of beware of wishing for your heart's true desire, lest you end by getting it.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

The DUP and Brexit...

Contemporary politics in Northern Ireland has an ugliness conspicuous even in that troubled part of the United Kingdom. There seem to be two flash points. One is the Democratic Unionist Party's strident conviction to maintain what it calls "the integrity of the Union," using its parliamentary influence over Westminster. The other is Stormont, where they are resisting the introduction of an Irish Language Act, which is Sinn Féin's chief demand for re-establishing a power sharing executive. Brexit has clearly worsened the situation but the DUP's ahistorical sneering at the Irish language, and their understanding of Britishness, says more than they perhaps mean under their words about the relationship they have both with the mainland, and the twenty-six other counties of Ireland. Earlier this year, Arlene Foster indicated that if Ireland were to be "reunited" then she would probably leave the country. Contrast that with Sylvia Hermon (the only pro-Remain unionist), who said "I'll be buried in the land that I love," and it does give a sense of the variety of opinion within the Unionist community. Foster's comments give credence to the Nationalist view that Ulster Protestants are just descendants of British planters with a shallow and artificial identity. I have much more sympathy with Sylvia Hermon, whose words touch near to my own heart about Ulster. Whereas I have no intention of learning Irish, and, like Tolkien, find it aesthetically unpleasing to the ear, I strongly support the work of the Gaelic League and other Irish cultural institutions and think that the Loyalist view is chauvinistic in the extreme.

The fact of the matter is the DUP is strongly out of step with all but a few thousand die-hards in east Belfast and their stark position gives no justice to the complexity of cultural and political identities and realities in the UK and Ireland. It's a trite question but what does it mean to be British in Ireland? Is it a cultural thing or is living under real British institutions necessary? I suspect that if Brexit becomes a reality then the Union's already-uncertain future will be sealed, and the free six counties will be annexed to the other place. The position of the DUP on Brexit will then be shewn to have been their undoing and a contributing factor in the dissolution of Northern Ireland as a political entity within the United Kingdom. I see no end to this deadlock but I like to think that one day the Loyalists will look back and reflect upon their recalcitrance and their refusal to look their southern neighbours in the eye, and say to themselves "perhaps we really ought not to have been so insular." That may also prove to be a lesson learned by Brexiteers in England as well.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Ordo 2019...

The Saint Lawrence Press Ordo for 2019 is now available to order here. I encourage you to support the Saint Lawrence Press by buying the Ordo. It serves not only as an highly useful practical guide for celebration of the Roman Rite in the modern world but as a professional comparison with the obvious inferiority of the rite of 1962, which many still confuse with the "old" rite. Any endeavour to de-mythologise liturgical history and praxis can only be good, whatever one's ecclesiastical affiliation. Buy your copy to-day!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Ireland and the Great War...

Three years ago my mother proposed that we go to Dublin to join in the celebrations to mark 100 years since the Irish rebellion of 1916. I refused. Not because I despise the tradition of Irish nationalism, which goes back hundreds of years and boasts innumerable great characters, but because my opinion of what happened in 1916 has remained fixed in the tradition of old fashioned Unionism. You might say I'm a kind of inverse Ernest Blythe! In the context of traditional Irish nationalism, the "Easter Rising" of 1916 was a complete aberration. There was some idealism in the mix but there was also a lot of neurosis, vanity, and downright bogus conviction. Most of the rebels weren't even Irish. Pádraig Pearse' father was an Unitarian from Birmingham. Tom Clarke's father was a soldier in the British Army, and he himself had spent virtually none of his adult life in Ireland. Maud Gonne (Yeats' muse) first saw Ireland from the inside of the Curragh Camp, where her father was a colonel in HM's Imperial forces. Constance Markievicz owed her privilege to the old Protestant Ascendancy; a kind of champagne socialist who could afford to play with revolutionary politics. And one could go on! This kind of bogus conviction reminds me of an old friend of mine of Polish ancestry, whose unique attachment to both Russian Orthodox Old Ritualism and Ulster Orangeism makes me wonder about the nature of conviction.

When the rebels seized the General Post Office and Pearse proclaimed the "republic," the declaration from which he read mentioned the "gallant ally" in Europe: the Kaiser! In the context of the Great War, whose centenary is being marked around the world to-day, this was traitorously cynical and was rejected by most Irishmen and women in Dublin, many of whose sons were serving in the British Army on the Continent. My paternal great grandfather John Sheridan was one of the 250,000 Irishmen on the Western Front and on his return to Naas during the ascendancy of Sinn Féin couldn't find work; presumably because the Sinners scared off anyone who might give him a job due to his having served in the British Army. Eventually he did find work, as a gardener for the local Methodist minister. Who knows now why he chose to volunteer for the British Army? Three square a day; for King and Country; or perhaps moved by the plight of Belgian refugees in Dublin. But if you compare my great grandfather's simple heroism with the perfidy of the rebels, shooting ordinary people with German guns and swearing allegiance to the Kaiser, that should make people think. So to-day my thoughts and prayers are with the ordinary Irishmen who fought on the Front Line and not the couple of hundred mongrels who seized the GPO.

May they rest in peace!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Five years later...

"Thou, LORD, shalt save both man and beast. How excellent is thy mercy, O God!" Psalms 35.

It's five years since Lucy died. I don't think a day has passed since that never-to-be-forgotten morning that I haven't thought of her and yearned for her presence. May she rest in peace!

Any ideas?

That's me (far right) and my siblings at the Giant's Causeway on one of many trips to Ulster. It's a photograph of a photograph so forgive the quality; I can't find the original. I think this was in 2002.

I've often said that one cannot simply summon the Muse. I have had little inclination to write recently, not because I am especially busy (I am actually rather idle) but because I feel as though I have run out of things to say. I have eight different draft posts, in varying degrees of completion, about subjects as various as Ireland, Tolkien and the Anamnesis. I have been re-reading books and re-watching documentaries about Ireland. I suppose Brexit has re-inflamed my sense of Irishness again. It's an hot and cold thing, fluctuating between revulsion and yearning. When I went to my great aunt's funeral in the north (of England) four years ago, I felt discreetly sick at the sound of so many Irish accents, the snobbery and the small talk. At the same time I feel a sense of pounding nostalgia for the Irish dance feiseanna I competed in as a child (and often won); the St Patrick's day march from the Irish centre in Catford to St Saviour's church in Lewisham for a Mass partly in the Irish language; for the cèilidh dance I remember vividly from the wedding of my second cousin Marie; for the sense of wonder I felt when I saw St Kevin's tower in Glendalough. Pádraig Pearse, who like me had mixed English and Irish ancestry, wrote that this had made him "the strange thing that I am." Well you can't get stranger than an Anglo-Irish homosexual convert to Russian Orthodoxy! (Unless you count a mentally ill Irish pop singer who recently converted to Islam).

I was saddened to learn yesterday of the death of Fr Robert Taft. His work was recommended to me many years ago when, as an ignorant traditionalist, I was too reliant on the bias of Adrian Fortescue. Some have expressed their untimely dismay that Taft, an undoubted liturgical expert, was not a traditionalist in support of the "extraordinary form." Well, on that score I have enough confidence in his scholarship to perceive that he devoted his life to the de-mythologisation of liturgical history and that there never was a golden age cut short by a council. I think he did the right thing in abandoning the Roman Rite as early as he did. May he rest in peace.

On a related subject, it's chilling to witness the creeping papalism of the Phanar in recent weeks. The latest in the Ukrainian schism is that old Bart has abolished the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and declared all Ukrainian bishops to be exarchs of Constantinople. It's hard to see the end of this but I hope sincerely that Bart comes to his senses.

I recommend Peter Hitchens' latest column for its earnest and forthright exposure of police incompetence. Also this transcription of a lecture on the real nature of divorce and its implications for society.

I started "Lucernare" to try and re-vivify the old fire but it's had the opposite effect. Any ideas?