This week the Rad Trad intends to publish the next posts in two series, the Lesser Known Fathers and the examination of the French usages of the Roman rite. The Lesser Known Fathers will delve into St. Theodore the Studite's defense of holy icons, which builds on the solid foundation of St. John of Damascus' earlier writings on the same subject. In the series on French liturgy we shall have an overview of the Holy Week and Pascha Sunday Masses in the Parisian Missal. Stay tuned.
The Rad Trad is also re-reading Evelyn Waugh's nostalgic classic Brideshead Revisited. Doubtless, many readers are familiar with this prosaic masterpiece, which weaves a personal narrative and a long ago social setting into a story of God's grace. The brand of post-modern literature, to which most of us were exposed by our universities, lacks the aesthetic verbosity of Waugh, whose style re-fashions settings and moods on paper. The Word of God was spoken and the world came to be. The word of Waugh was written and an embracing reflection comes about. Waugh describes the Oxford of 1923 in the second paragraph of the first chapter:
"Oxford—now submerged and obliterated, irrecoverable as Lyonnesse, so quickly have the waters come flooding in—Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman's day; her autumnal mists, her gray springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days—such as that day—when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth. It was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its resonance, and carried it still, joyously, over the intervening clamor."
Oxford devolved into a destination for upper-middleclass American tourists long before J.K. Rowling's harebrained, hackneyed Harry Potter stories. Whilst a student there the Rad Trad enjoyed deceiving fellow Americans on holiday. With one exception, they always enquired as to where the nearest Harry Potter attraction could be found: the library (Bodleian library), the dining hall (Christ Church College), the hallways (Theology faculty), and whatever else they could want. The Rad Trad obliged their requests, with either a heavily affected Yorkshire or Oxonian accent—depending on his mood. Often, after carrying down the High Street toward their destination, these poor site-seekers would chirp within the Rad Trad's earshot "Ooooh Jawhnny, don't you just love that English accent" or "Wasn't that a fancy voice" or even "I could just listen to British people talk all day." The bars are the only other form of entertainment in Oxford.
There is also an amusing description of the family house's chapel, 19th century art nouveau kitsch:
"The whole interior had been gutted, elaborately refurnished and redecorated in the arts-and-crafts style of the last decade of the nineteenth century. Angels in printed cotton smocks, rambler-roses, flower-spangled meadows, frisking lambs, texts in Celtic script, saints in armor, covered the walls in an intricate pattern of clear, bright colors. There was a triptych of pale oak, carved so as to give it the peculiar property of seeming to have been molded in Plasticine. The sanctuary lamp and all the metal furniture were of bronze, hand-beaten to the patina of a pockmarked skin; the altar steps had a carpet of grass-green and gold daisies."
Brideshead has developed a modern following focused on the sexual tension between its two main male characters, Charles Ryder and Lord Sebastian Flyte. These modern pseudo-aesthetes usually neglect or deride the main theme of the book, God's grace, or the various characters who act of God's instruments—Cordelia and Lady Marchmain. Others who understand and appreciate the theme often cite Sebastian and Cordelia as the good souls of the novel and ignore Lady Marchmain. A letter by Waugh to A.D. Peters, published in the back of the Back Bay Books edition, sheds some light on the matter:
"Yes, Lady Marchmain is an enigma. I hoped the last conversation with Cordelia gave a theological clue. The whole thing is steeped in theology, but I begin to agree that theologians won't recognize it.... I am steaming ahead with the novel. It is becoming painfully erotic."
A review might be forthcoming.