By now, I was staying at the guest house of Triors. Ray gives a slightly different angle on his subject of medieval parish worship, criticising Terence Duffy but without giving details (perhaps we might get lucky in his next letter).
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Thank you for your card and subsequent letter of Dec. 28th .
I am glad to learn that you have returned to the Church. I have an instinctive sympathy for the Anglican traditionalists, but I have never had the slightest temptation to join them. It seems to me that the truth or falsity of Christianity depends entirely upon Catholicism. For a very long time I had supposed that Orthodoxy was, in some sense, a continuation of primitive Catholicism. My study of the history of doctrine undertaken over these last 6 or 7 years persuafes me that I was mistaken, eg. During the 10th to 13th centuries the West added much to Christian doctrine. During the 14th century the Greeks, on their own initiative, received most of these Latin innovations which subsequently appeared in all the dogmatic formulations (though they continued to make a fuss about “filioque”). There is no such thing as the Orthodox Church, but a number of national churches and various splinter groups. Not all are in communion with each other. The Bloomians are largely now in the hands of non-ethnic converts. “Hobbyists” abound. There is little discipline, and popular singing and exotic ritual provide a great part of the attraction. At Oxford there is clericalism and a curious kind of liberalism. The Bloomian clergy are active with “hands-of-the-clock” change. At Oxford the Cypriots seem to have noticed this and seldom care. I doubt if they appreciate Mass largely in fem-speke. There also seems to have been some kind of a local schism over who runs the choir. But I think that I have told you these things before. I have distanced myself from it all.
I am interested in the liturgical conference in France which you mentioned. However, I am a near monoglot. I can manage to read clearly composed French and liturgical Latin. Unfortunately that is about my lot. Also it would need to be inexpensive. Travel, etc. has, for an Englishman, become much more expensive than it was even eight years ago. Even the fare to Paris by the cheapest route is now more than twice what it was when I last went in ’88. However I could manage the cost if it were otherwise worthwhile. What do you think?
Publishing my articles in French? Obviously what I sent you were only exceedingly rough accounts of what I have in mind. I will not attempt to put my matter into presentable form until I know a little about the potential readership. I would hope to provide a type script.
(i) “Worship in English Catholic Churches before 1952”. This I would do entirely from memory – the memory of a youth who had some background knowledge and who lived in London. I often attended liturgical offices in Westminster Cathedral. I remember cycling considerable distances in search of a church where there might, at least, be Sunday Vespers. (Now, in spite of a new rite and the vernacular, things remain much as they were before – except that there are now far fewer participants.)
(ii) “Daily Worship in an English Medieval Parish Church”
My information comes from primary sources, though I would add a little guided guess work closely based on these sources. There would need to be a brief treatment of the clergy serving a parish church: the impossibility of strict rubricism, etc. I would wish to include reasons for maintaining that even the illiterate could, after a fashion, follow even most of the choir office. Then, perhaps, one or two matters which emerge. (a) Public liturgical prayer and the minimal sufficiency of the deed done with the right intention. (b) vicarious prayer and worship.
A few writers seem to have been aware of some of my evidence. However, presumably because they lack experience of public worship in a liturgical language, they are ill at ease with the subject and pass over much – sometimes making obvious blunders as they go. Even Duffy is strangely reticent in this field. Perhaps Duffy had not had the opportunity to attend week day Office in a Greek village. (I do make some use of the comparative method.)
Once again the Newman Society organized a Sarum High Mass in the choir of Merton. This year it was for the Purification with ceremonies and a procession. There was a large congregation which included a number of Catholic priests. In my judgement it was done too fussily to find much favour. It lasted over two hours. A choir sang elaborate music and, accordingly, a few of the adstantes insisted on singing the responses against the official choir. One of the three processional crosses became entangled with a pendant electric light, etc.
I hope that you are content with life in the monastery. I would enjoy it; though obviously you may have difficulties of what I know nothing. My own personal problem is that I am unable to discipline my daily life. I have insufficient will power to deal adequately with small matters. When I had the fixed hours of the job at the Union Library (Dec. ’95 – Oct. ’96) I was enormously happy. Now I am not. I do less academic work now than I did then. I wish that I could be a custodian at a place like Downside. Robert Stephen Mundi is, in some manner, around. He is using my address, but living surreptitiously in an office in the City and doing some work for a City church. His terrific intelligence, enormous self-confidence and ability to do without possessions are staggering, at least I find them so. I suppose that few others know how he tended Ronald Head – the aged vicar dying from cancer.
I am in the history library. I read “the people would not have understood the service because it was in Latin, but they would have known what type of feast it was from the colour of the priest’s chasuble. This is nearly as anachronistic as that Hamilton fellow whose description of Holy Saturday in the Middle Ages is an account of the new rite of 1950! I await the opportunity to read “Most people leaving church bought a copy of the current ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ to read after Sunday dinner”.