Page 12, 16th March 1979

16th March 1979
Page 12
Page 12, 16th March 1979 — Missals differently beautiful ,6Charterhouse, NChronicle

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Missals differently beautiful ,6Charterhouse, NChronicle

University Challenge clanger

FROM last week's Catholic Herald I gather that the first edition of 25,000 copies of the new Pope John Sunday Missal has already sold out and that 35,000 more are being rushed — not perhaps the perfect

word — into production by the Belgian printers. In addition, the Sunday Missal published by Collins has sold phenomenally.

That there are two versions of the Missal now in circulation is great. It still does not mean that there is anything like one for each Catholic family, but it does mean

that more and more arc undertaking the slightly demanding business of participating in the Mass rather than letting it flow over and around them.

And the more you participate rather than attend. the more sense

the new order makes. But we've had an overflowing basinful of frequently unfair recrimination on that subject.

The aged among you will recall the old Roman Missals. I still have a shelf of them from parents and pious relations and from school. The best known was Abbot Cabrol's (of Farnborough Abbey) version of the missal. That had an English crib printed in a parallel column. And then there were the countless editions of the Missale Rontanum.

One of mine says rather crossly at the start Jus Proprietatis Vindicabitur, though which bits a pirate publisher might want to pinch out of so conventional a volume is hard to imagine. He would have had to use a magnifying glass to find his loot anyway. Its title page speaks volumes. I (and I alone) translate it: The Roman Missal restored by a decree of the Sacrosanct Council of Trent of Pope Saint Pius V.

edited by order of other Popes, recognised with the care of and reformed by the authority of Pope Pius X."

In those days one reasonably sized, almost miniature volume was enough to contain the entire liturgy of the Mass for a whole year. It took a convert some considerable time to find his way

AND talking of inexplicable ignorance — on "University Challenge" the other night. Mr Bamber Gascoigne asked a question which ran something, hut only something, like this: "From what city recently did a man go to a conclave and expected to return but in fact did not come back?"

There were two teams — the elite of St Andrews and of Clare College, Cambridge. Nice, cleancut lot, reasonably educated and all longing to win as if their degrees depended on it.

There was a pause, but not a pregnant one. From one team a voice said: "Prague". Mr Gascoigne passed it to the other with his firm, 18th century grace. From it came: "Warsaw".

backwards and forwards among the commemorations and various versions of feast days.

And I can recall, even on High altars, whispered debates between celebrant and deacon as to what should come next. It is still not all that easy.

The introduction of a threeyear cycle — thrillingly called A, B, and C in the missals and I, 2, and 3 in the lectionaries — makes an extra hazard for lectors at the lectern and to preachers who have prepared a sermon on the correct version of the day's readings. But Collins requires an extra plumper than Sunday version for the daily Mass-goer. These two Collins volumes provide what is necessary, as clearly as is humanly possible, in print which can be I do not expect them to be papists or religious freaks or encyclopaedists or Vaticanologists or Kremlinologists, hut you really might have expected that eight young people preparing to launch themselves with every advantage — except money and a title — into a dangerous world of international tension and pressure might just have heard of what has been happening in a great and significant country whose independence of mind and spirit has been the wonder of our time and a source of hope for the future and how this hope has suddenly been personified. But I run on.

The next question was about the changed name of Boulder Dam in the United States. They were back on dry land. They knew it is now called the Hoover Dam.

read in a pious half-light and in a form that is %both handsome and modern without being modish.

The Pope John Missal is still more sumptuous. Its name at first sight seems odd. since the Pope did no more than call the Vatican Council from which the changes sprang. And yet it makes sense. For this Missal. if anything can, will reconcile those who still pine for the old ways. Its print is somewhat smaller.

In addition it has a fascinating collection of sensible, indeed great, devotions. Among these is a modern version a the Stations of the Cross which seems admirable at least for private use.

And it includes the "Jesus Prayer" which is only a few short lines of essential prayer which the Orthodox have made into a coin plicated vehicle for their mysticism and which seems admirable for everyday use.

It was much used by the monks and hermits of the desert. It must, essentially, go back to apostolic times. It would suffice for a scaffold or a kitchen or a lordly oratory. I am ashamed to say it was new to me.

Lord Jesus Christ.

Son of the living Goa. Have tnerer on me a sinner.

1 he two missals now complement one another. Both are beautiful in different ways. I sit abashed and humiliated in front of them, wondering who did all the proof-reading to gel so much so absolutely right.

Revolutions and religion

WHEN a country is turned upside down by a revolution, the last aspect to be reported is the fate of its religion. Iran, of course, has had a religious revolution.

But only recently have we begun to hear anything about the state of religion in China, and that is because the Chinese Government has led the reporters to the water and. in their own inimitable way, made them drink.

One of the most fascinating Christian countries in the world is, or was, Ethiopia. One of the several founders it claims for itself was the eunuch, Philip, converted by St Paul.

It followed, however, the Egyptian Church, particularly the largest part of it which broke with Rome and Byzantium to follow

the opts into exotic heresy about the very nature of Christ.

And when Egypt fell to the Muslims, the Ethiopian Church was quite cut off from the West and in the West there grew' the legend of an ideal realm ruled by Prester (priest) John.

It was very much the national Church of the ruling Amharas. But the language of its liturgy was more ancient than theirs and only very few priests could understand it.

The last Emperor, Haile Selassie, who died a captive, got their many holy books translated, but the Ethiopians had a horror of print for religious purposes and he had to get the manuscript photocopied, and that the priest accepted.

Not that it made much difference. Religion was everywhere. There were round, thatched churches standing on the hills on the high plateaux in groves of eucalyptus trees. They seemed as frequent as village churches in England — but less permanent.

The liturgy was in a circular central sanctuary round which were three concentric walls painted in a bold and exciting way with wide-eyed saints and St George sticking the dragon and Christ entering Jerusalem and their own saints and Our Lady, It is true that their priests were ignorant, rather like the "mumpsitnus" village priests whom the Reformers once mocked in England for their lack of Latin. The people hardly knew what was going on inside the church and stood outside and prayed away by themselves and waited for the striking of a resonant plank to mark the Consecration.

The Roman Church did try to reach them after the 13th century. first with Dominicans and then with Jesuits. All of them were axed — literally — in the end. They did make some spectacular conversions, including one Emperor. but he was deposed.

The missionaries found the

people quarrelsome and given to frequent (palace) revolutions.. One of their customs was to imprison dangerous royalty in gold chains on the top of some remote pinnacle of rock.

I went once to their largest monastery at Debra Libanos. It was a small town of huts and painted churches on a shelf, literally. There was a cliff behind, and in front an appalling, vertiginous, vertical drop down and down to the bottom of the Rift valley. A river ran to the edge of the drop and simply disappeared.

The Italians enacted a famous massacre here and the turbaned monks kept a cave full of the bones of the dead. They did a great deal of praying and the best learnt off their entire Bible by heart. They could also read the Church language (lee: even ii they could not understand it. They tapped drums and waved musical rattles when they chanted.

When I was there, there was a small Catholic cathedral and a Catholic school in Addis Ababa by far the best in the country. The Catholics kept very quiet and close to the ground.

But what has happened under this violent and destructive military regime which at least murders its own members as well as whomever takes their quasipolitical fancy'? There were reports of severe persecutions of the classical sort. There were 200,000 clergy in 900 monasteries and 16,000 churches.

I lowever, the World Council of Churches has had a team touring the country which reported that there was no evidence oi "systematic, nationally sanctioned persecution" in Ethiopia. Which is a contradiction 'of' the little we heard before.

The World Council of

Churches is not the sort of body which would much concern itself with old-hat ecclesiastical affairs, They did say that there was evidence that some individuals had been arrested without trial and were even tortured. And that there were isolated cases of action against religious institutions like. churches and monasteries. But in an on-going, progressive revolutionary situation Geneva is big enough and bland enough to accept these boo-boos.

In their care for the things of God, they wrote: ... the government was not hostile to the Church. Indeed, there is an offer to the Church to participate in formal and informal education,

"But at this stage of its development, the operational weaknesses of the Church both structurally and personnel wise need to be overcome before any real contribution can be made for the benefit of the people as well as the tranformation of society."

So be easy over the state of your strange fellow Christians.

Winchester confrontations

THERE was a mild disturbance in Winchester last Sunday — nothing unusual, except that it was in stable, ancient Winchester.

It was a silly, attempted confrontation between the National Front and the Anti-Nazi League. It achieved nothing. It meant nothing. It wasted an unconscionable lot of time.

Here, from H. W. Chambers' classic life of St Thomas More, is an account of another Winchester confrontation. It was written in about 1599: "Afterwards, as he passed, there came to him a citizen of

Winchester, who had been once with Sir Thomas before, and it was upon this occasion.

"This poor man was grievously vexed -with vehement and grievous tentations of desperation, and could be never rid of it, either by counsel of prayer of his own or of his friends. At last a good friend of his brought him to Sir Thomas More, then Chancellor. Who, taking cornpasion of the poor man's misery, gave him the best counsel and advice he could.

"But it would not serve. Then fell he to his prayers for him, earnestly beseeching Almighty God to rid the poor man of his trouble of mind.

"He obtained it; for after that the Hampshire man was never troubled with it any more, so long as be would come to Sir Thomas More: hut after he was imprisoned and could have no access unto him, his tentation began again more vehement and troublesome than ever before. So he spent his days with a heavy heart, and without all hope of remedy.

"But when he heard that Sir Thomas was condemned, he posted from Winchester, hoping at least to see him as he should go to execution, and so determined to speak with him, come what would of it. And for that cause he placed himself in the way.

"And at his coming by, he thrust through the throng, and with a loud voice said: 'Mr More, do you know me? I pray you for Our Lord's sake, help me: I am as ill troubled as ever I was.'

"Sir Thomas answered: 'I remember thee full well. Go thy ways in peace, and pray for me: and I will not fail to pray for thee.'

• "And from that time after, so long as he lived, he was never troubled with that manner of tentation,"

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