Roses of Sharon
LILIES may be the traditional " Easter flower, but it is daffodils now-a-days that most of us associate with the time of this festival, the flower that has delighted the poets down the ages and that stems from the Rose of Sharon (Narcissus tazetw) said by Isaias to make "the desert rejoice." The asphodel was another name for it, corrupted in Old English to aflodyle, or "that which cometh early".
The daffodil of today is the result of so much crossing and with so many different groups that we have almost lost sight of the little wild daffodil of our woods, a tiny plant that is worth replanting in our own wild patches if we can get the bulbs.
A bunch was brought to me the other day; they looked minute compared ills the handsome blooms flaunting themselves in the tallest vases we possess, but when I put them into a glass on a sunny windowsill they seemed far lovelier than any of their handsome elder sisters, and were noticed at once by everybody who came into the room.
Daffodils that have been growing in pots can be re-planted as soon as the foliage has died down, either in groups in flower beds, or singly in grassy places, but in this latter case the grass must be scythed in July when all the foliage has gone, and again before the winter so that the young spikes can push through easily next Spring. Outdoor daffodils should have their leaves tied in a loose knot until they die off naturally. the Church to purity of doctrine or the perfection of holiness though sometimes through the wastes of error and dispute and sin? f have always believed this to be so.
H1ST° RICALLY, churches are a development, growing out of the needs of our theology and liturgy. At different times the aspects of truth, or the features of doctrine, which required emphasis, varied, so the form of the church differed too, and as society fell from lofty ideals to lesser, so Christian art bent to its capacity. Recently both have been very low.
But just as we are at a kind of physical excellence in young manhood, so I conceive the building of Christian churches fin the west) to have attained a period of objective excellence ending with the Romanesque style—in time varying with different places. Prior to this, all was development, growth, positive achievement, and thereafter came modification, relative and, perhaps, at sonic time, almost total loss of tradition that reduced us to our recent chaos.
Throughout the Middle Ages variations arose to meet particular needs, and they were therefore immediately good, but less good since they detracted from that objective excellence which we found, hypothetically, in the Romanesque.
To give easy examples: the Templars built round churches to remind them of the rotunda. of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem; the spread of heresy and the need for preaching caused friars to build churches which were virtually halls for instruction; some of the burgher churches in the great Hanse towns seem to have had an eye to civic events rather than to sacrifice.
Such objects were good, small local goods, but they clearly detract from the whole, universal, catholic good which informed the earlierbuilders.
TN fact, the most fundamental heresy produced the most glorious architectural achievement of all —the Gothic apse and corona. We are all accustomed to bear Amiens, Beauvais, Notre Dame de Paris, etc., extolled as the expression of mediaeval piety soaring to heaven on incredibly lofty vaults, admitting God's warm sunshine through walls of coloured glass, and exposing enchanting vistas of ambulatory beyond ambulatory, shrine beyond shrine.
Yet the defect of it all was that the Gothic architect was fundamentally concerned with himself, his own skill, and the unplumbed limits of his engineering.
The history of French and English Gothic was a race with experience to reduce stonework to a minimum, to raise vaulting to unprecedented heights till it could turn in on itself in the daring pendents of Henry VII's Chapel at Westminster.
The achievement was beautiful, a credit to human skill dedicated to God, but it is still not architecture informed by liturgy. In her play, " The Zeal of Thy House", Dorothy Sayers dramatised the conflict of conscience in the mind of the architect of the Gothic choir at Canterbury.
THE basic plan of almost all Western church building was the Roman basilica. This was not due to
any enlightenment of the Holy Ghost. Christians used basilicas as Paul used Roman roads for his missionary journeys.
The basilica was a feature of Roman architecture and, in particular, a hall of judgement, and the Church used it to emphasise a doctrine which helped to fashion Christian society, one to which modern circumstances compel our return, that Christ is our Ruler. Lawgiver, and Judge. He is this, in a sense, even before He is our Redeemer, since Redemption belongs to this transitory state, whereas His Rule is for ever.
Where the Magistrate sat in the old basilica, at the head of the rounded apse, under the half dome, the Church placed the Bishop, the fullness of priesthood,the living representative of Christ, and above, in a glory of gleaming mosaic, an immense representation of Christ us Pantokrator, "Ruler of All", Risen and Glorious, seated on the rainbow of the new Covenant, holding up the Book of Life, blessing and teaching and surrounded by a heavenly court.
There were variations and departures, hut such were most common and persistent, and may • still be seen in many churches of Rome and Italy; there are splendid late examples at Mortreale and Cefalu in Sicily and a recently uncovered fresco at Paray le Monial in France. This was the feature which, in lieu of altar, crucifix or tabernacle, first struck the imagination as one entered.
THIS altar was a simple stone slab on legs, not a massive construction such as would obstruct the pictures we have described.. This altar was the centre of the church in a sense far more true than that which animates some modern designers, it was the centre of union, where priest and people met in sacrament.
Beyond it was the court of the Bishop, resplendent with angels and saints, for it represented the triumphant Church in Heaven; the nave was the barque of Peter, the militant Church coming to Redemption, and the exterior forecourt or atrium became known as the Paradise, so that between the porch and the apse the sum of creation was contained.
Heaven and Earth met at the altar, the Bishop and the People, in sacrifice and communion, just as they do indeed unite at the Cross of Calvary. The Bishop obviously, approaching from his throne, celebrated facing the people. for reasons which have been outlined here but which are sometimes far from the minds of persons advocating missa versus popa;ron, As the Bishop represented Christ the Priest, the inanimate stone of the altar was Christ the Victim, and the people, associating themselves with Christ's victimhood, placed under it, in a crypt or martyrium, the bodies of those who had died martyrs.
rrHE mediaeval de1 veloprnent of the church was a progressive deviation from the primitive order we have described, too complex to explain here. Its significance is this: that the unity and order of the basilica, focused on the apse of government and the altar of sacrifice and communion, were lost, not because of the essential requirements of changing architectural styles, but of an altering hierarchy of values. One by one parts which at first found their place in relation to the whole were set up as objects for their own sake. For example, relics, from their intimate association with the Victimhood of Christ in the confessio beneath the altar, assumed the dignity of the apse, of the altar itself, of the whole church. The altar, from a centre of union, came to mark either, at the rood screen, a separation between cleric and laity or, at the east end, an object in itself, till it was reduced to its final disgrace as pedestal to a mere objet d'art like
No need for TV
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT, by Hubert Phillips (Max Parrish, 12s. 6d.).
THIS hook is described as enter tainment for the whole family, and such it truly is. The problems set on the pages of this book should occupy many hours without recourse to television for entertainment. and profitably help the sharpening of the reader's wits.
Progress is not made by going backwards. It would be an offence to encourage the building of mere replicas of early basilicas, although in fact, for safety's sake, some of the best minds have thought it wise to do so, among them St. Charles Borromeo.
At the great German Abbey of Maria Leach, the centre of so much liturgical reform and " experiment ", where the splendid twelfth century church was already unique in the purity and fullness of its basilican inspiration, every effort has been made to restore the ideal arrangement of the period of objective excellence.
A great mosaic of Christus Pantokrator adorns the apse, the abbot's throne is beneath it, a slight primitive altar has been installed suitable for nrissa versus populum, with relics beneath it, and a graceful baldachin° restored from its exile where it was sheltering a tomb. This arrangement, suitably modified. is repeated in the crypt and certain chapels of the monastery.
BUT all that is really wanted is a true, knowledge of tradition and a respect for what is best in it. The successes of ancient times, when
builders were integrated with the stream of tradition and conscious of the spirit of worship, are rarely possible today.
The evolution of what is best suited to contemporary needs we can hardly contrive deliberately.. that is something only the future historian can evaluate, hut a right appreciation of tradition, and especially of its sound growth. as opposed to mere modifications and defects, will help us to find our way, or to follow the Providential guidance of God.
This must he what is meant. and not just Roman conservatism, when Canon 1296 urges the Christian artist to be faithful to "ecclesiastical traditions."