Monday, February 1, 2010

A Delightful and Erudite Blog for Your Perusal

This past summer I attended the TED Global Conference in Oxford -- a wonderful place I had never before visited. On the recommendation of one of the commenters here, I attended a Sunday mass at the beautiful old church of St. Thomas the Martyr just across the bridge from downtown Oxford. The celebrant was Father John Hunwicke, to whom I brought greetings from his friend in America. I was treated to a fine sermon, with dry wit and gentle asides (one directed to the Rev. Ian Paisley, delivered in a perfect rendition of his accent). The service itself was Anglo-Catholic, with incense for the preparations and an Angelus at the end.

There were not many in attendance that Sunday in the middle of summer, and I stayed afterward for a glass of cold apple cider and some cookies baked by Father Hunwicke's daughter. I had a delightful conversation with both of them, and learned a good deal about the current state of the Church in that corner of of England. Father Hunwicke acknowledged that he blogged from time to time, chiefly about the arcana of Anglo-Catholic liturgy. So I began following his blog, which I now want to commend to your attention.

You will not be able to go anywhere else on the World-Wide Web and find as succinct and and learned an explanation of beatification versus sanctification as this post he put up on January 28:

Well, No. But Blessed Charlemagne you will find in local calendars as to be observed today; you will find churches dedicated in his name; and, I am told, at Aix his relics are exposed for veneration. What is going on?

In 1165, two Popes claimed the obedience of Christians. Here at S Thomas's, we are very keen on Candidate A: Alexander III. He occupied the See of Peter (although often in exile from Rome) during the great conflict between Frederick Barbarossa and the Church. What we English often fail to realise ... so insular is the way we teach and experience History ... is that in England a small side-show was going on which mirrored the titanic struggle on the mainland of Europe: a conflict between Thomas a Becket and King Henry II. Henry was in contact with Barbarossa; and Thomas enjoyed the confidence of Alexander (to whom he resigned the See of Canterbury so that it could be regranted to him by the Papacy).

In the other corner of the ring, wearing the rossa (Ha!) pants, behold Candidate B: Paschal III. He owed his position to the Emperor.

Each Candidate performed canonisations. Alexander, in 1173, canonised the Archbishop who had been martyred at the instigation of a King. Paschal, in 1165, canonised the Emperor who had founded the Empire (and who, incidentally, was not without suspicion of heresy ... the images business ...). The politics of each act are very plain. Charlemagne was canonised as a theological and hagiographical statement of the supremacy of Monarch over Church.

You will not be surprised to learn that subsequent consensus regards Alexander as the Genuine Pope, and Paschal as an "Antipope". That means, of course, that his pontifical actions are deemed null. So Charlemagne was not, after all, lawfully canonised. But de facto the cultus of Charlemagne continued. And Popes never condemned this. Because of the long standing situation, that most erudite of Pontiffs, Benedict XIV (writing as a private theologian - another parallel between XIV and XVI is their willingness to do this and thus to subject their views to the critical examination of the scholarly world) expressed the view that Charlemagne is to be considered a beatus. And this, mark you, although Paschal's act was part of a heretical denigration of Papal authority.

Am I drawing a theological conclusion from all this? You bet I am. It is the supremacy of the weight of de-fact'-icity in this question of who is - and isn't - a Saint or a Beatus. Even if there are doctrinally iffy questions, and a little matter of schism, included in the mix.
(And see his follow-up on the beatification of St. Charles the Martyr.)

Or look what happened when a commenter ("Joshua") raised this off-topic query on another post:
Entirely off topic - what would be the Latin for "troll", of the internet kind? I need this for a deprecatory blessing...
He received a spate of learned replies, among which the following are my favorites:
Figulus said...

Joshua, for what it's worth, the great churchman and ethnologist Olaus Magnus referred to trolls as "metallici daemones" in his monumental Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus. This is the earliest mention of trolls in Latin that I know of, but I have yet to read Saxo Grammaticus ...

Joshua said...

Apologies to Fr H for using his blog so shamelessly...

Many thanks for the suggestions about how to render "troll" (my blog's been suffering such recently) - I'd wondered if it could be treated as 3rd declension (since in the nominative such nouns can end in consonants) - and I really like "metallici dæmones" (am I right in reading the first word as referring by metonomy to the mines, as in that music of Grieg "in the hall of the mountain king"?) since it sounds somehow suitable to the modern use of the word, referring to those who lurk amidst the copper wires...

I must admit, when I think of trolls, I think of that fairytale I learnt at mother's knee about the troll lurking under the bridge and eating all the little kids - what would be the nearest mythological creature in the Græco-Roman imaginarium?

The Raven said...


The closest things to trolls that I can think of are the καλλικανζεραι (apologies for almost certain mis-spelling and lack of diacreses), that still haunt the Greek imagination (in living memory Cypriots would throw cakes and sweets onto the roofs of their houses to placate the καλλικανζεραι).

Patrick Leigh-Fermour theorised that the καλλικανζεραι were perhaps folk memories of the stories of the centaur (he theorised that their mane was derived from "the good centaurs, καλλοι κενταυροι). Looking at the metopes from the Pathenon, I can believe that the centaurs served a similar purpose in the ancient Greek mind as the trolls did for the Scandinavians.

. . .

Fr William said...

Fascinating! A quick bit of Googling (and what a blessing Google is to those of us whose façade of learning far outstrips our actual knowledge!) reveals, in various spellings, the Καλλικάτζαρος / Καλικάντζαρος / Καλικάτζαρος / Καλλικάντζαρος. There is an article on it in Wikipedia (another wonderful aid to pretended learning, as long as one handles it with caution), which tentatively supports the Leigh Fermour etymology.

Figulus said...

Joshua, yes, "metallici daemones" means mine demons; the Latin word metallus means rather more than its English cognate, as Georgius Agricola's "De Re Metallica" demonstrated.

The Raven's mention of Greek trolls reminds me of other (older?) Latin names for the mine demon, namely "Coballus" and its diminutive "Coballinus", which you might recognize in their English cognates Kobold and Goblin, as well as, oddly enough, cobalt (Latin "cobaltum").

I rather approve of the potential neologism "coballinare". At least, I like it more than "metallice daemonare".

. . .

Joshua said...

Pursuant to the above remarks, I've delved into these matters a little more, and found:

- mediæval Latin rendered goblin as gobelinus;

- coballus derives from the Greek κόβαλος, meaning a knave or impudent rogue;

- the new Latin verb suggested, coballinare, to troll, directly parallels the Greek verb κοβαλικεύω, "to play the knave".

And Father Hunwicke's benign reaction to this taking of his post so far off topic? Read it here. For still more fun, check out today's post (with the two comments thus far), on how to attract greater internet traffic through use of the British slang term "lerve" around St. Valentine's day.

I suggest you subscribe to his blog in a reader, or sign up to follow it; or you can also follow it through the link I have added to the right (under "[Anglo-]CatholiCannon", of course). Father Hunwicke's posts on all sorts of timely topics throughout the Christian year never fail to enlighten, or to brighten up an otherwise gloomy day.

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