Monday, 30 August 2010

Camino Odyssey 14

Conspiracy theories? Probably not. But there is no doubt that the following message was tampered with enough to make it almost unreadable. Anyway, I have fixed it up now and hope that it remains that way.

Prepare to read about the mass before the Mass...

What is the Mozarabic Rite ?
In Galicia and in fact- many parts of Spain, the Roman mass was not heard. Instead, the liturgy was the Mozarabic, Visigothic or as it is sometimes called, the Hispanic Rite. By 1085, however, it had been suppressed in fravour of the mass most of us are familiar with today, though in Latin , of course.

The term Mozarabic Christians refers to those who were living in parts of Spain occupied by the Muslims. But in fact, it dates from before the Moorish invasion to the Visigoths who occupied all of the north of Spain, Galicia included. Some scholars believe it could be even older and that it may have been one of the earliest forms of the mass. There is every possibility that it is this that Priscillian would have celebrated as Bishop of Avila. This ancient rite has its own form of chant before Gregorian chant which postdates it by at least 300 years . You can you hear it on You Tube here: .

The visual quality isn't the best, but in some ways it adds atmosphere to the early church. .It's hauntingly beautiful, Perhaps even more so because there is almost no-where in Spain now that you can hear it. This is from the Church of the Holy Martyr Santa Eulalia in Merida.

We have the earliest evidence for the rite from Isidore of Seville who died in 636. As the “Reconquista” began to take back more and more parts of Spain. , so the Mozarabic Rite gradually was taken over by the Roman one. In fact, by the end of the 8th century, it was already used in Catalonia , But it was not until 1071 that it was adopted in Navarra and Aragon. At this time , the Cluniac order was beginning to move into Spain with these monks. In 1076, it was adopted in Leon and Castile, and when the capital of Toledo was taken by Alfonso VI in 1085, the future of the Roman mass as the only one to be used seemed almost certain.

This was not immediately accepted by everyone, and Galicia, being the most north western kingdom did not want it at all. As I mentioned earlier in these posts it´s levying on the Gallego people may have caused real rebellion and bloodshed , and most likely , the deposition of a bishop, Diego Pelaez himself .

But what Pope Gregory VII said ewhat had to be, came to be, and what had to go, went. A French archbishop was appointed to the see of Toledo by the king and henceforth , it was the Roman mass Christians were expected to make their responses to. Everywhere. Officially .Whether they liked it or not.

In the late 15th century, Cardinal Cisneros of Toledo begin to restore the Mozarabic Rite in the historical cathedral of Toledo. By the late 19th Century, there were missals containing the new rite although scholars are not in agreement on how much of the original rite is contained in these.

In Toledo Cathedral, the Visigoth Mass is celebrated in the Mozarabic Chapel every day . There are a few more churches in Spain who have been given permission to hold this ancient Hispanic mass, but few do so .

I had hoped to be lucky enough to attend this mass. My pilgrim friend, Juan Frisuelos , had applied for, and got, permission from the archbishop to hold the mass at the closed convent in Escalona just to the north east of Toledo. His cousin "Paco" was an ordained priest and invited to officiate. Many members of the association of the Friends of Santiago were looking forward to this most unique opportunity.

However, it seemed was not to be.

Rivalries exist everywhere, and it appeared that the local priest was not too keen on the idea and said at the last minute special permission had to be applied for. So on the day the regular Catholic mass - though pilgrim with very distinct overtones - was celebrated. I have to admit I was rather disappointed, even though I found the crisp Castillano very easy to understand. During the blessing of the Eucharist I had some sort of epiphany as I suddenly realised the Gnostic Significance of the transubstantiation of bread and the wine. But I will not write of it here .

Afterwards we - Juan and his family and priests - not one but two - and me - all trooped back to Juan´s housewhere Maria, his mother , put on a veritable feast of the best paella I have ever had, topped off with a perfect home -made flan to die for. Me, and two priests! And I behaved myself admirably . I've never had after- church lunch with the vicar before! The talk was of food and practicalities and theological discussion was not entertained. Quite right too .

We watched the TV news item from my Toledo interview and there was not a fish in sight. I think I made sense, but I had never realised that I spoke Spainish with such an appallingly English accent! Though about the Mozarabic Mass, Juan was disappointed , and knew that I was disappointed. And so the next day ( Sunday ), we decided to drive to Toledo where we would be sure to catch it .


As it was the Feast of St. James it had been decided to hold a special "pilgrim mass". And that , of course , could not include anything which was not specifically Roman Catholic, even if the Visgothic Rite predated the Catholic one by hundreds in Galicia and most of the Way in general.

We were, however, allowed to enter into an area behind the rood screen which Juan told me was not normally open to the public.

What astonished me was the message of the liturgy: Pilgrims were from "all over the world, from all religions or none , the road did not end in Santiago but continued on to Finisterre and the end of the trail , and the best of all surprises : It did not matter who was buried in the cathedral because what mattered was what in pilgrim’s hearts.

Well , knock me down with a feather !

"But of course ", I hear you saying .

But this church has never taken this line and the reason why I am pretty well persona non grata in the Cathedral is because I have written and continue to speak about this. What this elderly priest in red was saying was exactly what I had been saying in newspapers, on TV and on the radio in the days leading up to this, the 25th of July the Day of St. James, the Patron of Spain (and not, by the way, the Patron of Compostela: that is San Roque, Santa Susana whose graffiti -covered church in the Alameda park is a disgrace, abandoned and forgotten.

I cast a quizzical eye at Juan. Afterwards, He said: "It is the way of the Catholic Church Bureaucracy. They will do anything to save face. "

Well , well ...Did I touch a clerical nerve or two?

I do hope so.

This will be my last blog post for a month as I am off again on book promotion for Pilgrimage to Heresy in Canada, but I'll be back in September ready to take up again the story of how the Way came to be, so I do hope you will drop by. In the meantime there are more than 100 posts about the Camino and related items here and I am sure you will enjoy a browse.

Until then, "goodbye".

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