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CHRISTOPHER DAWSON, 80 YEARS ON

This is a reproduction of the penultimate chapter of Christopher Dawson’s work, Religion And The Modern State, published in 1935 by Sheed & Ward.  It summarises the constant teaching of the Catholic Church admirably.  Note well : One should not think that current praxis of the Church’s bishops and clergy agrees with the Church’s constant teaching.  Our fidelity is to Christ and His Church, not to the ipse dixits of those who currently govern the Church.  more

A REMAINING CHRISTMAS

In dulci jubilo, let us our homage show;
Our delight and pleasure lies in praesepio,
Like sunshine is our treasure—matris in gremio
Alpha es et O !   Alpha es et O ![1]

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It is close on fifty years since the writer was introduced, by Sydney businessman Ted Beck, to the essays of Hilaire Belloc.  Ted maintained that the greatest of Belloc’s essays was The Mowing of a Field.   My own view, long held, is that the essay reproduced below best fits that bill.[2]

Blessed with an intellect of great breadth and penetration, and the singular gift of seeing the world sub specie aeternitatis, Belloc is a writer whose view is worth considering on any topic.  Alone among the writers of his day Belloc foresaw the resurgence of Islam.  His prophetic gift manifests itself here: the world was divided in his day: it is growing ever more divided.  Protestantism has largely dissolved into unbelief, and the Catholic who adheres to the Faith and not some re-invented Protestantism grows more and more isolated.  The neo-pagan, his Christian roots abandoned, exults in the rejection of his heritage, his deference to nature contradicted by his rejection of nature’s principles, of nature’s Author and the order established for his good.[3]  The more he exults in materialism, the more blind he becomes to his dependence and his contingency.

Each of us is involved, whether we like it or not, in eternity: that reality is as rooted in our being as, in this present life, is time.  Time—fluxus ipsius nunc—that flowing now, is contrasted with the now of eternity Boëthius defined as perfect possession altogether of endless life.[4]  Belloc addresses the dichotomy in our need for the Divine—

“[T]here is this great quality in the unchanging practice of Holy Seasons, that it makes explicable, tolerable, and normal what is otherwise… shocking and intolerable… I mean, the mortality of immortal men… [N]ot only death, but that accompaniment of mortality which is a perpetual series of lesser deaths and is called change, are challenged, chained and put in their place by unaltered and successive acts of seasonable regard for loss and dereliction and mutability.”

They matter not, the iconoclasts, the heretics, the multitudes who follow their false gods, the atheists, the Devil worshippers.  Christmas remains, and will remain till the end of time, for Christ is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega.

Michael Baker
Christmas, Anno Domini 2011
__________________________________

A Remaining Christmas

The world is changing very fast, and neither exactly for the better or the worse, but for division.  Our civilization is splitting more and more into two camps, and what was common to the whole of it is becoming restricted to the Christian, and soon will be restricted to the Catholic half.

That is why I have called this article ‘A Remaining Christmas’.  People ask themselves how much remains of this observance and of the feast and its customs.  Now a concrete instance is more vivid and, in its own way, of more value than a general appreciation.  So I will set down here exactly what Christmas still is in a certain house in England, how it is observed, and all the domestic rites accompanying it in their detail and warmth.

This house stands low down upon clay near a little river.  It is quite cut off from the towns; no one has built near it.  Every cottage for a mile and more is old, with here and there a modern addition.  The church of the parish (which was lost of course three and a half centuries ago, under Elizabeth) is as old as the Crusades.  It is of the twelfth century.  The house of which I speak is in its oldest parts of the fourteenth century at least, and perhaps earlier, but there are modern additions.  One wing of it was built seventy years ago at the south end of the house, another at the north end, twenty years ago.  Yet the tradition is so strong that you would not tell from the outside, and hardly from the inside, which part is old and which part is new.  For, indeed, the old part itself grew up gradually, and the eleven gables of the house show up against the sky as though they were of one age, though in truth they are of every age down along all these 500 years and more.

The central upper room of the house is the chapel where Mass is said, and there one sees, uncovered by any wall of plaster or brick, the original structure of the house, which is of vast oaken beams, the main supports and transverses pieces half a yard across, morticed strongly into each other centuries, and smoothed roughly with the adze.  They are black with the years.  The roof soars up like a high-pitched tent, and is supported by a whole fan of lesser curved oaken beams.  There is but one window behind the altar.  Indeed, the whole house is thus in its structure of the local and native oak, and the brick walls of it are only curtains built in between the wooden framework of that most ancient habitation.

Beneath the chapel is the dining room, where there is a very large open hearth which can take huge logs and which is as old as anything in the place.  Here wood only is burnt, and that wood oak.

Down this room there runs a very long oaken table as dark with age almost as the beams above it, and this table has a history.  It came out of one of the Oxford colleges when the Puritans looted them 300 years ago.  It never got back to its original home.  It passed from one family to another until at last it was purchased (in his youth and upon his marriage) by the man who now owns this house.  Those who know about such things give its date as the beginning of the seventeenth century.  It was made, then, while Shakespeare was still living, and while the faith of England still hung in the balance; for one cannot say that England was certain to lose her Catholicism finally till the first quarter of that century was passed.  This table, roughly carved at the side, has been polished with wax since first it began to bear food for men, and now the surface shines like a slightly, very slightly, undulating sea in a calm.  At night the brass candlesticks (for this house is lit with candles, as the proper light for men’s eyes) are reflected in it as in still brown water; so are the vessels of glass and of silver and of pewter, and the flagons of wine.  No cloth is ever spread to hide this venerable splendour, nor, let us hope, ever will be.

At one end of the house, where the largest of its many outer doors (there are several such) swings massively upon huge forged iron hinges, there is a hall, not very wide; its length is as great as the width of the house and its height very great for its width.  Like the chapel, its roof soars up, steep and dark, so that from its floor (which is made of very great and heavy slabs of the local stone) one looks up to the roof-tree itself.  This hall has another great wide hearth in it for the burning of oak, and there is an oaken staircase, very wide and of an easy slope, with an oaken balustrade and leading up to an open gallery above, whence you look down upon the piece.  Above this gallery is a statue of Our Lady, carved in wood, uncoloured, and holding the Holy Child, and beneath her many shelves of books.  This room is panelled, as are so many of the rooms of the house, but it has older panels than any of the others, and the great door of it opens on to the high road.

Now the way Christmas is kept in this house is this:
On Christmas Eve a great quantity of holly and of laurel is brought in from the garden and from the farm (for this house has a farm of 100 acres attached to it and an oak wood of ten acres).  This greenery is put up all over the house in every room just before it becomes dark on that day.  Then there is brought into the hall a young pine tree, about twice the height of a man, to serve for a Christmas tree, and on this innumerable little candles are fixed, and presents for all the household and the guests and the children of the village.

It is at about five o’clock that these last come into the house, and at that hour in England, at that date, it has long been quite dark; so they come into a house all illuminated with the Christmas tree shining like a cluster of many stars seen through a glass.
The first thing done after the entry of these people from the village and their children (the children are in number about fifty—for this remote place keeps a good level through the generations and does not shrink or grow, but remains itself) is a common meal, where all eat and drink their fill in the offices.  Then the children come in to the Christmas tree.  They are each given a silver piece one by one, and one by one, their presents.  After that they dance in the hall and sing songs, which have been handed down to them for I do not know how long.  These songs are game-songs, and are sung to keep time with the various parts in each game, and the men and things and animals which you hear mentioned in these songs are all of that countryside.  Indeed, the tradition of Christmas here is what it should be everywhere, knit into the very stuff of the place; so that I fancy the little children, when they think of Bethlehem, see it in their minds as though it were in the winter depth of England, which is as it should be.

These games and songs continue for as long as they will, and then they file out past the great fire in the hearth to a small piece adjoining where a crib has been set up with images of Our Lady and St Joseph and the Holy Child, the Shepherds, and what I will call, by your leave, the Holy Animals.  And here, again, tradition is so strong in this house that these figures are never new-bought, but are as old as the oldest of the children of the family, now with children of their own.  On this account, the donkey has lost one of its plaster ears, and the old ox which used to be all brown is now piebald, and of the shepherds, one actually has no head.  But all that is lacking is imagined.  There hangs from the roof of the crib over the Holy Child a tinsel star grown rather obscure after all these years, and much too large for the place. Before this crib the children (some of them Catholic and some Protestant, for the village is mixed) sing their carols; the one they know best is the one which begins: ‘The First Good Joy that Mary had, it was the joy of One’.  There are a half a dozen or so of these carols which the children here sing; and mixed with their voices is the voice of the miller (for this house has  great windmill attached to it).  The miller is famous in these parts for his singing, having a very deep and loud voice which is his pride.  When these carols are over, all disperse, except those who are living in the house, but the older ones are not allowed to go without more good drink for their viaticum, a sustenance for Christian men.

Then the people of the house, when they have dined, and their guests, with the priest who is to say Mass for them, sit up till near midnight.  There is brought in a very large log of oak (you must be getting tired of oak by this time!  But everything here is oaken, for the house is of the Weald).  This log of oak is the Christmas or Yule log and the rule is that it must be too heavy for one man to lift; so two men come, bringing it in from outside, the master of the house and his servant.  They cast it down upon the fire in the great hearth of the dining-room, and the superstition is that, if it burns all night and is found still smouldering in the morning, the home will be prosperous for the coming year.

With that they all go up to the chapel and there the three night Masses are said, one after the other, and those of the household take their Communion.

Next morning they sleep late, and the great Christmas dinner is at midday.  It is a turkey; and plum pudding, with holly in it and everything conventional, and therefore satisfactory, is done.  Crackers are pulled, the brandy is lit and poured over the pudding till the holly crackles in the flame and the curtains are drawn a moment that the flames may be seen.  This Christmas feast, so great that it may be said almost to fill the day, they may reprove who will; but for my part I applaud.

Now, you must not think that Christmas being over, the season and its glories are at an end, for in this house there is kept up the full custom of the Twelve Days, so that ‘Twelfth Day’, the Epiphany, still has, to its inhabitants, its full and ancient meaning as it had when Shakespeare wrote. The green is kept in its place in every room, and not a leaf of it must be moved until Epiphany morning, but on the other hand not a leaf of it must remain in the house, nor the Christmas tree either, by Epiphany evening.  It is all taken out and burnt in a special little coppice reserved for these good trees which have done their Christmas duty; and now, after so many years, you might almost call it a little forest, for each tree has lived, bearing witness to the holy vitality of unbroken ritual and inherited things.

In the midst of this season between Christmas and Twelfth Day comes the ceremony of the New Year, and this is how it is observed:
On New Years’ Eve, at about a quarter to twelve o’clock at night, the master of the house and all that are with him go about from room to room opening every door and window, however cold the weather be, for thus, they say, the old year and its burdens can go out and leave everything new for hope and for the youth of the coming time.
This also is a superstition, and of the best.  Those who observe it trust that it is as old as Europe, and with roots stretching back into forgotten times.

While this is going on the bells in the church hard by are ringing out the old year, and when all the windows and doors have thus been opened and left wide, all those in the house go outside, listening for the cessation of the chimes, which comes just before the turn of the year.  There is an odd silence of a few minutes, and watches are consulted to make certain of the time (for this house detests wireless and has not even a telephone), and the way they know the moment of midnight is by the boom of a gun, which is fired at a town far off, but can always be heard.

At that sound the bells of the church clash out suddenly in new chords, the master of the house goes back into it with a piece of stone or earth from outside, all doors are shut, and the household, all of them, rich and poor, drink a glass of wine together to salute the New Year.

This, which I have just described, is not in a novel or in a play.  It is real, and goes on as the ordinary habit of living men and women.  I fear that set down thus in our terribly changing time it must sound very strange and, perhaps in places, grotesque, but to those who practise it, it is not only sacred, but normal, having in the whole of the complicated affair a sacramental quality and an effect of benediction: not to be despised.

Indeed, modern men, who lack such things, lack sustenance, and our fathers who founded all those ritual observances were very wise.

*                             *                             *

Man has a body as well as a soul, and the whole of man, soul and body, is nourished sanely by a multiplicity of observed traditional things.  Moreover, there is this great quality in the unchanging practice of Holy Seasons, that it makes explicable, tolerable, and normal what is otherwise a shocking and intolerable and even in the fullest sense, abnormal thing.  I mean, the mortality of immortal men.

Not only death (which shakes and rends all that is human in us, creating a monstrous separation and threatening the soul with isolation which destroys), not only death, but that accompaniment of mortality which is a perpetual series of lesser deaths and is called change, are challenged, chained, and put in their place by unaltered and successive acts of seasonable regard for loss and dereliction and mutability.  The threats of despair, remorse, necessary expiation, weariness almost beyond bearing, dull repetition of things apparently fruitless, unnecessary and without meaning, estrangement, the misunderstanding of mind by mind, forgetfulness which is a false alarm, grief, and repentance, which are true ones, but of a sad company, young men perished in battle before their parents had lost vigour in age, the perils of sickness in the body and even in the mind, anxiety, honour harassed, all the bitterness of living—become part of a large business which may lead to Beatitude.  For they are all connected in the memory with holy day after holy day, year by year, binding the generations together; carrying on even in this world, as it were, the life of the dead and giving corporate substance, permanence and stability, without the symbol of which (at least) the vast increasing burden of life might at last conquer us and be no longer borne.

*                             *                             *

This house where such good things are done year by year has suffered all the things that every age has suffered.  It has known the sudden separation of wife and husband, the sudden fall of young men under arms who will never more come home, the scattering of the living and their precarious return, the increase and the loss of fortune, all those terrors and all those lessenings and haltings and failures of hope which make up the life of man.  But its Christmas binds it to its own past and promises its future; making the house an undying thing of which those subject to mortality within it are members, sharing in its continuous survival.

It is not wonderful that of such a house verse should be written.  Many verses have been so written commemorating and praising this house.  The last verse written of it I may quote by way of ending:

‘Stand thou for ever among human Houses,
House of the Resurrection, House of Birth;
House of the rooted hearts and long carouses,
Stand, and be famous over all the Earth.

__________________________________________

[1] The first verse of a traditional Christmas carol derived from the writing of Dominican mystic, Blessed Henry Suso [1300-1366]; the English rendering is by Robert Lucas de Pearsall.

[2]  A Remaining Christmas was first published in A Conversation with an Angel and Other Essays (by Jonathan Cape, 1928).  This reproduction is taken from the Penguin edition of Belloc’s Selected Essays published in 1958.

[3]  He thinks marriage and society matters of contrivance only, not immutable realities rooted in nature. 

 

THE NORMALISATION OF DEVIANCE

The attempt to legitimise sodomy and lesbianism in Australia may be fittingly compared with the abandonment of adherence to rules and practices critical to air safety.  The label adopted in the flying community for the latter seems an appropriate one to apply to the legislative push.  more

THE POPE & THE PERILS OF SUBJECTIVISM

This is our response to the report that Pope Francis has issued a rescript asserting that his interpretation of the questionable passages in Amoris Laetitia is an exercise of the Church’s authentic magisterium.  more

FR HUNWICKE ON VATICAN II & DIGNITATIS HUMANAE

On his blogsite http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com.au/ Fr John Hunwicke has reproduced his comments on the above in the course of considering Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s text “They have uncrowned Him”.  To balance his offering we repeat our own contribution published back in 2016. more

WHAT WE HAVE WAITED TO HEAR, IN VAIN, FROM A CATHOLIC BISHOP IN AUSTRALIA

A suggested diocesan, or archdiocesan, letter from a Catholic bishop, one whose sole focus is on Christ and His Church and is not distracted by the zeitgeist of the age.  more

THE BISHOPS & MARRIAGE

We reproduce here a copy of an extract from Don Pietro Leone’s The Family Under Attack which lists the causes that have left us with such ineffectual bishops.  more

 

DOGGEREL

A ditty about current concerns by a guest contributor

 

I know you will think it odd o' me

But I'm votin' to legitimize sodomy.

    My friends all insist

     And because I resist

They're beginnin' to think not a lod o' me.

 

I know that you think it a sin

An' can't abide the state they live in,

     But the bishops don't care,

     Say “it's not our affair”,

So I think that I'll vote this lot in.

 

You say we'll all end up in Hell

And cripple society as well;

     But if they were concerned

     That we might all get burn'd

Then surely the bishops would tell.

 

Alright, I hear what you say,

That a bishop can't tell night from day!

     So I'll give it some thought

     And perhaps I'll report

I've decided to vote Nay and not Yea.

 ________________________

THE BETRAYAL OF MARRIAGE BY AUSTRALIA’S CATHOLIC BISHOPS & MR TURNBULL’S PLEBISCITE

The ideological circus surrounding attempts to modify the reality of marriage by altering Australian law to “redefine” it to include the “marriage of homosexuals” is in full swing.  We are to vote on the issue, for heaven’s sake !   An understanding of what is at stake has been comprehensively obscured by the neglect and irresponsibility of Australia’s Catholic bishops.  more

THE STUPIDITY OF VOTING ON 'GAY MARRIAGE'

What marriage is, its essence, is of nature, not of human will.  It follows that no matter what men may think, they can’t alter it.  more

THE PROTESTANT IMPOSITION

Here is a further extract from the admirable study by H J A Sire, Phoenix from the Ashes, which we reviewed at http://www.superflumina.org/PDF_files/review-phoenix-from-the-ashes.pdf   We commend the book to all visitors to this website.

The author demonstrates the clumsy attempts by the reformers to justify their rejection of God’s authority in selective appeals to Councils of the Catholic Church even as they insisted on the rejection of the authority of His Church and of His popes.  Typical of their hypocrisy is the acceptance of the Church’s position on the procession of the Holy Spirit from Father and Son (against the view of the eastern Orthodox).  He writes : “The Filioque doctrine, which all the Protestant churches retain in the Creed, is not defined by the first four councils, or indeed the first eight.  It derives its dogmatic status from its incorporation into the Creed by papal authority in the eleventh century; in other words it stands or falls by papal infallibility.”   The extract is available here.

DEVASTATION OF THE CHURCH’S TEACHING ON MARRIAGE & SEXUALITY

Commentator Don Pietro Leone has performed a singular service for Christ’s Church in publishing, on rorate-caeli, an analysis of the degradation that has befallen the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality at the hands of popes and bishops over the last 60 years.  There are five sections : the references are as follows :

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-church-and-asmodeus-part-1.html#more

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-church-and-asmodeus-part-2.html#more

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-church-and-asmodeus-part-3-and.html#more

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-evils-of-amoris-laetitia-church-and.html#more

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-church-and-asmodeus-part-5.html#more

There are one or two inaccuracies which do not disturb the trust.  The Master General of the Dominican Order referred to at the time of the debating of the issues was not Fr Michael Browne (who was not, in any event, created  a Cardinal until 1971), but Fr Aniceto Fernandez.  Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae did not precede, but followed, Gaudium et Spes, whose alteration of the Church’s constant teaching on the end of marriage to accommodate the Protestant view he adopted.  The reader should note carefully Don Leone’s reference in the text to the critical issue of finality, and the systematic failure of the Council’s bishops, as of the popes and heads of Vatican dicasteries thereafter, to advert to it.  This failure, which as Don Leone rightly says, demonstrates aversion to scholastic  thinking (read “thinking grounded in the philosophy of St Thomas”) justifies the contention that the Second Vatican Council was not an ecumenical, or general, council of the Catholic Church.  Don Leone puts the issue in a nutshell : “The end, or finality, of a thing determines its nature”.

We recommend the paper in all its parts for our readers’ close attention.  For those who wish to read it at one sitting, we have reproduced it here.

SPLENDOUR OF THE MIDDLE AGES : THE MAJESTIC INFLUENCE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON MANKIND

This is a reproduction of part of chapter 2 of H J A Sire’s Phoenix from the Ashes (Kettering Ohio, 2015) where the author nails the lies purveyed by Protestant and agnostic commentators down the centuries about the effects wrought in society under the influence of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages.

The author notes the adoption, under the Church’s influence during that splendid time of all that was best in other civilisations ; of her insistence on the universality of truth across every discipline and the acceptance, and worth, of the need for debate and disputation to arrive at the truth ; of the laying then of the foundations of the science of logic and of modern science ; of the elaboration, in the face of great opposition, of the one true philosophy grounded in reality (to the exclusion of all ideology) ; of the establishment of the roots of democracy ; of the origins of the university, the hospital, and of a dozen other institutions we take for granted in the modern world, institutions over whose provenance we never trouble ourselves such is the arrogance of modern parochialism.

We recommend the entire book.  A review of its content may be found here—http://www.superflumina.org/PDF_files/review-phoenix-from-the-ashes.pdf  The reproduction of the part of chapter 2 may be found here.

PROFESSOR SOLOMON'S INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY

Professor Solomon's Introduction to Philosophy - First Series is available as a booklet from Cardinal Newman Faith Resources for the price of $15 plus postage - click here to order. It is available also as individual chapters in Adobe Acrobat form on this website -  more