Fr. Hunwicke, 4/30/15

Pip'n'jim on May Morning?


So Ss Philip and S James used irreverently to be referred to in Oxford. One of our most majestic Victorian Anglo-Catholic churches, also known as Pip'n'jim, raised its great spire into the sky above North Oxford; Parish Church for the redbrick suburbs that grew up in the later nineteenth century after dons were allowed to marry. Spire and building are still there, but the building now houses offices. A symbol of what has happened to this place. So swiftly have the waters come flooding in; Newman's Oxford, Anthony Trollope's Oxford, hot-house of Anglican Theology ... and of Anglican scheming and quarrelling and gossipping ... the grey-stone town where and from where the black-backed parsons ruled ... it is no more, unless Plato has it wisely and safely tucked away in his heaven.

May Morning still exists; but it is a matter of Mr Plod doing his best to quell disorder (more among the Town than among the Gown). Frankly, listening to the madrigals sung, without any alcoholic disorders, in the front quad at S John's (usually, at 7) is distinctly more attractive than pretending to enjoy the 'traditional' crowded goings-on at Magdalene bridge (at six o'clock).

Rather a sad post, this, isn't it, for the lovely old English celebration of May Morning? And it gets sadder: the Roman Rite has joined in the trashing of Tradition by abolishing the celebration of Ss Philip and James on May Morning, and shoving the pair of them around, like vagrants Of No Fixed Abode being endlessly moved on by the police.  Yet this was one of the thirty-odd Days of Obligation when the community met together for Mass, until encroachments of the Enlightenment and an appetitive desire to keep the workers' noses to the grindstone reduced most of those days to Days of Devotion; when the Faithful were merely urged to go to Mass (and, of course, next to nobody nowadays even urges)It was Pius XII who dispossessed Ss Philip and James of May 1 so that S Joseph Opifex could occupy it and so reclaim for the Church the Socialist Workers' Festival. Let's admit it: on paper, that's not a bad idea. But it never caught on. You can't, simply by decree, create a deeply known and inculturated traditional celebration. 

But I hear the shade of that great liturgist Lenin murmuring into my ear "Stop moaning! What is to be done?" Baldric-like, I do have a splendid idea! The Extraordinary Form is lumbered with S Joseph the Workman, first class, on May 1. That is a problem. There is not really any way round that**. But in the Ordinary Form, S Joseph is nowadays only optional (ditto in the Ordinariate Calendar). So one could lawfully say on May 1 an OF votive Mass of Ss Philip and James (or of anybody else). What? You don't want to celebrate the OF? I couldn't possibly comment! But don't forget the Anglican Use! With its Preparation at the Foot of the Altar, its Tridentine offertory Prayers, its ritual details of reverencing the Blessed Sacrament with all necessary genuflexions and respecting the Altar, great symbol of Christ's Body, with kisses ... its Last Gospel ... Not to be sneezed at, surely, even if you are something of a 1962 fundamentalist.

Yes; the clever solution for May Day is to celebrate a Votive Mass of Ss Philip and James in the Ordinariate Form of the Mass!

What's that you say? You're not an Ordinariate priest? Not, therefore, entitled to celebrate the Anglican Use? Ah, how I pity you! I think it is probably the best vernacular rite known to Christendom. But all you need is a little group of Ordinariate people who respectfully ask you to say, for them qua Ordinariate Catholics, the Anglican Use Mass on May 1. You can then graciously accede to their request. And, if some of your own people, 'Diocesan Catholics' (as we call them in the Ordinariate), come along as well and pick up some wholesome liturgical instincts from the experience ... well, as Alice's friend, the Dodo, puts it, "Everyone has won and all must have prizes!" Mutual Enrichment!

P.s. You can see Alice's Dodo, aka the Oxford Dodo, in the Pitt-Rivers Museum. No jokes, please.

**FOOTNOTE    H Davis Moral and Pastoral Theology (1934) Vol iii p 145 does write "To substitute for the Mass prescribed in the Calendar another Mass at choice would normally be a venial sin, but if great scandal arose or there was contempt or serious negligence, the sin would be a grave one. It would be no sin if the celebrant had a reasonable excuse for the change and if there were no scandal. But to make such substitutions frequently would connote contempt of the Rubrics, and would be a grievous sin unless, as stated, there was a serious reason for thus acting."
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